One day, my body betrayed me. It’s not supposed to do that when you are 25. It is supposed to be a time of discovery, success, and excitement. It is supposed to be about the incredible journey into adulthood. It is supposed to be about travelling and new experiences. For me, it was about being diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.
Everything changed. The whole world looked different. In one second I developed a completely new identity: cancer patient. I did not know how to act, what to feel, what to say. I did not know this new person and honestly, I did not want to know her. I did not want anyone else to know her either so I chose complete isolation. That did not work at all. It took me a long time to figure out how to incorporate friends and family into this journey.
I learned a new language—becoming deeply familiar with names of chemotherapy, medical tests, and all the different components of my blood. I learned a new identity. I learned to only look at what I had to conquer that day. I learned what it meant to fight for my life and for my future.
I started to think of my body as something different, not my own. I hated that body, and it seemed like that body hated me. That body went through so many painful surgeries. That body had a terrible reaction to chemotherapy. That body lost its beautiful hair. That body now had so many brand new scars. That body hurt so much, all the time. We were in a fight. A really big one.
Miraculously, the treatment plan worked. The plan was medical, surgical, chemical, spiritual, and psychological. I had the most gifted team on my side, and they figured it all out. They saved my physical life, but what about all the other parts of me? So many things were going on inside of me. There was fear, anger, confusion, and isolation. After a lot of hard work, family support, and time, something interesting happened. The healing began.
The post treatment work was harder, longer, and more intense than my 16 months of chemotherapy. Now I realized that I was fighting for my future since I had won the fight for my life. There was an army of people rallying around me.
I went back to work full-time and started to think about re-entering the dating world. As an Orthodox woman, I was often set up by friends and family on blind dates. I had to figure out how my new identity as a cancer survivor was going to fit in. The next few years were filled with heartbreak and disappointment along with some of my best comical dating stories. There were guys who outright rejected me without even meeting me because I had “been through something,” and then there were others who took longer to figure out that they just could not handle the reality of my life.
But I found him. A guy I had known for a long time who waited for me to be ready.
Our courtship was pretty standard. Dinners out, long walks in the city, weekends with friends, an appointment with my oncologist. We spoke openly about the past, the present, and our future.
Now, 10 years after my diagnosis, my life looks dramatically different. It is now all about my gorgeous daughter and my growing family. I cannot even begin to count all the spectacular blessings in my life.
I made up with my body. My body created this incredible person, my daughter. She pulls on the hair that was once missing. She falls asleep listening to my strong heartbeat nestled on my chest filled with scars. I carry her with my newfound strength. I take care of her and nurture her and inspire her with the most spectacular husband, partner, and best friend.
How could my body, which did that 10 years ago, be the vehicle to produce this miracle, this gift, this treasure? No one can really answer that question, but it did. I love this body. And I love this life.