Your amazing body is replacing itself even now as you read this. Researchers estimate that every seven to ten years, you complete this shedding and renewing of skin cells, tissues, bone and blood. On a biological level, that means I am almost an entirely different being now, having shed the one that received the news of my breast cancer diagnosis. It was a Friday in May when the biopsy results had come in, and while I don’t remember all the words the doctor spoke, I can still see the short synthetic grey and black flecks in the carpet at work where I crumpled after she hung up.
Time is divided by BC and AD, my life before cancer and after diagnosis. That day of diagnosis felt like a curtain dropped, and for the first time in my life, I could not see or sense the future at all. It is fitting to call that day my “Zero Day” as it reduced me in so many ways and was a reset point.
When faced with your own mortality, your dreams, career and family pursuits, finances and relationships go into a tumbler. Esoteric philosopher Rudolph Steiner described the first 7 years of life as a time of growing from “oneness with Mother to growing autonomy”. My “oneness” then was not with mother, but with my couch for about a year—as I faced multiple surgeries and treatments that stripped my femininity and fertility and place in the world. But from this vantage point, I see that largely these last 7 years did resemble Steiner’s first stage of life—that of a child seeking a growing sense of individuality and renewed power.
To be clear, I was a 36 year old woman at diagnosis, with a 3 year old child of my own. But I can see so much of myself in Steiner’s description of this stage of life. I remember at my weakest and most depleted, when the pain was the worst, it was as if my spirit hovered about 6 inches from the surface of my skin. I was too raw to really inhabit my own being. Steiner describes how for a little child, the spirit incarnates into the physical body little by little, giving the child a stronger sense of themself.
As AD time moved forward, I think of how more and more I began individuating away from my identity as cancer patient. By the time I was a “two year old” survivor, I had found my mission in my coaching work. I was fueled by the fire for a purposeful life, and in desperate need to give back this gift, and live a life that felt worthy of saving.
Then at year 5, I arrived at that magic but also somehow arbitrary number which signaled my probable statistical safety. I came more fully into who I am, explanting my painful and health impeding breast implants. This choice pushed me away from the narrow norms initially offered to me by my surgeons. By confronting the bias for breastedness which puts women’s health and comfort in the back seat, I reclaimed my body for myself, and connected with a whole movement of women who are aligning with these same values.
Astrologers tell of the Saturn return, and while it takes a little over 29 years for the planet to cycle the sun, it dances its geometry across your natal chart in smaller 7 year periods. Saturn is chock full of knee scraping lessons that lend towards maturation and wisdom. And consider the many other significances of seven, like the 7 major systems of the body, 7 days of the week, 7 chakras, 7 colors in the rainbow, and 7 sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church.
I am 7 years new. Lucky 7.
It’s somehow poetic that I now received an invitation from the Young Survival Coalition to lead a workshop in their upcoming summit around the topic of Long-term Survivorship. I read the email this week and thought, “Is that me?” Those words long term survivor still catch me by surprise. I will whisper them like a rosary until all my cells know it to be so.
The largest conference built for young adults affected by breast cancer is here! YSC Summit: Digitally Yours is coming to you online May 21-23. See old friends, meet new ones and get some awesome YSC swag delivered straight to your mailbox – a gift from us to you! Register early to receive your free gift box in time (weather, mail service and fate permitting). Attend one session or come to them all. We can’t wait to see you!