Cancer is… I’ve started that sentence many times. Most simply, it is a deep betrayal, to feel your body has turned against you. Even though I ate organic food, was a vegetarian for many years, even though I went to yoga classes and worked out at the gym, even though I knew about the mind-body connection and practiced positive affirmations, even though I did all the right things —I still couldn’t protect myself. I still couldn’t keep cancer from manifesting in my body.
It’s devastating to come face to face with your mortality and feel so powerless. It is terrifying to navigate immense decisions on treatment and surgery and statistical outcomes, to make all these hard and fast decisions, and trust you are doing the right thing. Life comes to a slow crawl while all around, friends are having babies, buying homes, advancing in their careers and planning vacations.
“I just want to live!” It’s came out like a whisper, an endless prayer, a mantra in each breath, it poured from my mouth like a wounded animal howl. I felt it in my bones on sleepless nights, or when I held my three-year-old son or pressed my face into my husband’s chest to smell his skin. All I could do is follow my marching orders and hope that the treatments were doing the job of ferreting out every last cancer cell in my body. When faith has been turned inside out, it’s hard to trust in anything. I was Alice falling down a very deep, deep well.
As a 5-year survivor, I have lost enough friends and seen even more experience cancer recurrences, each time bringing that looming cloud of worry sharper into focus. The span of these last 4 post-treatment years I have been unraveling a knot. Inch by inch I reclaim my sense of trust and comfort with this body, unraveling a tangle of trauma. I continue a lifelong practice of smoothing out and digesting just what this experience has taught me and brought into my life. Transformation and growth are never static.
This healing reclamation has lit a fire of urgency under me, to soak in the people and experiences around me fully, take nothing for granted, and to leave something good in my wake. I often think of the question that Mary Oliver poses in, The Summer Day, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
What have I learned and how can I share it, so something beautiful might grow in my wake? I have answered this question with my writing, and through private coaching sessions, where I help people find clarity, courage and resiliency through times of stress. I bring my self fully to the peer support navigation and support group moderation where I mentor other cancer survivors.
Then through my recent explant procedure, another big piece of my life’s mission has revealed itself to me. The need that I see, that lights me up with excitement and urgency is that women cancer survivors need help making peace with their bodies. They want to find their confidence so they feel sexy again and enjoy the fullness of life. I’m dreaming into being workshops and retreats for this community and can’t wait to connect with more women who need this work. (If this is YOU, please sign up for my mailing list here so I can keep you in the loop.)
It is not enough to just ride this out, to simply survive. If you let it, if you answer the call, your broken places can lead you to help so many others and take you on an adventure you never imagined possible!
Melissa Eppard is a certified Life Coach, writer, and breast cancer thriver, explant warrior and flat activist. She uses her personal and professional experiences to help women get their sexy back after cancer so they can move forward with less fear, make peace with their bodies and reclaim the fullness of life. Learn more at MelissaEppardCoaching.com