On this day 2 years ago, the shattering blow came. The words I heard through the end of the receiver were surreal and an inky black curtain of uncertainty closed on me. But I am still here and I can say that we are not defined by the things that happen to us. As we are shaped, we come into being. We choose what we will do with all that learning, with what we have left, with who we are now. I am just far away enough that I can hold this experience of breast cancer at arm’s length. I can unpack it and see how it has grown me, forged in fire.
Mostly there is gratitude. There is presence and urgency and purpose. I take nothing for granted.
And I am determined that the theme of my second year a survivor be “Giving Back”. I am connecting with other survivors through the Health Alliance Oncology Support Program, and have participated in a survivor mentor training through the Young Survival Coalition. I am also hoping to win a scholarship to attend the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD conference in July, where the breadth and depth of latest scientific research will position me to be an even more informed mentor.
2 years ago that call came while I was working at the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. The tremendous synchronicity of that moment was that my manager at the time was a former Oncology Social Worker at the Oncology Support Program I just mentioned. Sarah was the first touchstone of deep compassion and support that I would come to feel again and again through the community of friends, family, financial donations, warm meals, rides to treatment and more.
Collectively, it was an overwhelming outpouring of love, and I can look back at it and say that my family was saved by all that generosity. Something so destructive in me had brought so much Grace into my life. I saw what was possible when humans are moved to love that much. To those of you who have shared your love and light with me, even just a kind word, I am forever grateful!
Now I am thrilled to back at Omega, working as a Life Coach to the staff. I have come full circle from the place where I first experienced the transformative power of coaching 10 years ago to now serving in the capacity as a coach. I work at Omega 1-2 days per week, and continue to grow my private practice, which includes meeting with clients one on one and leading group workshops. I just love seeing things come alive in my client’s lives, for the cloud to lift, or the big shift to happen, for that aha as energy is reclaimed and a feeling of connection and purpose is restored. It is the most rewarding work I have ever done.
I am reclaiming my body in new ways too, testing the limits of what I can do. I have vowed to walk the Avon 39, a 39.3 mile walk all over NYC in just two days October 15-16, just weeks before my 39th birthday. This money will go to other people in their fight against breast cancer, helping with education, diagnosis, treatment and more. If you would like to walk with me in team Melissa’s Healing Hope or if you would like to join in this cause, please make a tax deductible donation here. As of writing this I am still $1558. shy of my goal. All this walking will serve another purpose too. It will help get me strong and healthy so that I can bounce back quicker from another surgery I will need this Fall.
Lastly, I am thrilled to begin working with tattoo artist, Miranda Lorberer, next month. My mastectomy scars will be her canvas. Our goal is to have this work finished by the 2 year anniversary of my surgery, taking back that date and transforming it into something empowering and beautiful.
I continue to grow and hope in spite of what has come before. I will keep that flame of hope burning for other people, those caught in the temporary blindness of uncertainty and despair.