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Living in the Shadow . . .

I got a text from someone the other day. She was waiting to have her mammogram. Though all mammograms are important, this one was especially so, as it was her post breast cancer 5 year check. She texted about her angst, waiting to be called back. I could relate to her. I call it the shadow. It’s something we as survivors have floating around us. You’re cancer free but you have this shadow hovering over you, always wondering, will it come back? Asking yourself, will I have another “dance” with the Big “C”?

There are two waiting rooms, at my hospital, when you go to have a mammogram. One waiting room is for those who have never had cancer, the other is for those of us who have. I’ve been in the “have” waiting room for 9 years, starting in 2011 when I had breast cancer for the first time. There is always a defining silence in that room while everyone is waiting, each of us lost in our own thoughts about what life might have in store for us again. It’s a club of sorts, one that’s all inclusive, all shapes and sizes and ethnic origins are welcome. It’s a kinship. We get each other. We understand what cancer is and what it does. We know what it takes to “survive”. And while sitting there waiting, we each hope that all of us will receive good news that day.

While driving to get my last mammogram, I did my “ritual” of listening to upbeat music on the way and manifesting in my mind a positive outcome. I concentrated on my breathing and remaining in the now. Letting my mind wander to the worst case scenario is never helpful. A huge lesson learned in my journey with the Big “C”.

I was pleasantly surprised that they had new gowns to wear - half gowns that were not bulky and uncomfortable - score Beaumont! Feeling snazzy in my new gown, I went to the waiting room. What I saw sadden me. The room was at capacity. Seats became available only when a woman got up for her mammogram. All these souls that have experienced cancer. I’ve watched over the past 9 years more and more women filling that waiting room. Each year there seems to be more of us living with the shadow. All knowing that each day we have is a precious gift because we know that life can turn on a dime. That maybe the shadow will visit us again.

Once you get your mammogram you wait for results. The wait can be nerve racking - Will it be clear or will they need more pictures? Will I be told I need a biopsy again? I received an all clear this last time and so did the person who texted me. And as someone who has had the Big “C” knows that is the best news ever. Happy dance all around! The shadow disappeared, good news like a bright shining light has broken through. Yes, as someone who has had cancer twice, the shadow will always be there but I don’t let it “overshadow” my life. If I do then I let it win. When I think about it, we all have some type of “shadow” in our life. We all have something that can hold us back, make us worry, threaten us. The goal is to live despite it. To enjoy and embrace what we have. Why give energy to it? When I can use my energy to create a wonderful life. I was given a precious gift by coming through the shadow twice. The shadow has taught me how to live in the now, to appreciate my life and just enjoy. I am living my life despite the shadow and finding it absolutely remarkable! Whoop! Whoop!


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