Hello friends! October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and to celebrate, I’ve invited an expert to speak to you about this very delicate subject. Michele from Hello Lovely is the girl next store, mom, sister, wife, and daughter .. who just happens to have a genetic mutation that increases her risk for breast cancer. So pour a cup of tea and read on about Michele’s amazing journey and take away not only more knowledge on the subject but also love, light, and laughter.
Thanks so much, Leslie, for inviting me to share thoughts on breast cancer. While I have shared bits of my story on my decor blog, Hello Lovely, I so honor you and the opportunity to spread love. I’m Michele, a breast cancer and ovarian cancer PREVIVOR. With a sky-high risk of developing feminine cancers, I opted for a complete hysterectomy and bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. My 87% feminine cancer risk is the result of a genetic mutation (BRCA2) and disturbing family history. My younger sister and I inherited the mutation from our mother, who is fighting breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma as a living miracle.
So, yeah, I’m a previvor with some trauma in my recent past, but I’d prefer to chat with you as if we are old friends helping each other muddle through. I agree with Ram Dass. We really are just walking each other home.
There are three thoughts I’d like to share today. First, while there are all sorts of titles and new identities for folks affected by breast cancer: Survivor, Previvor, Warrior, etc., PLEASE, LET’S NOT LET ANY LABEL SEPARATE US. We are all fighting battles. While my anti-cancer journey is a rather dramatic and genetically rare one (only about 1% of women who develop breast cancer are BRCA+), in a sense, you and I are not different at all! We’re vulnerable. We’re striving to live healthy, anti-cancer lifestyles which will not promote cancer cell growth within our bodies. My own heart overflows with admiration for my mom, who fights BC daily, but it’s bursting with admiration and mercy for one of my sisters who: did not test positive for BRCA, isn’t a previvor or survivor, yet fights battles every day on her anti-cancer journey to minimize risk.
Second, with BRCA2+ genetic mutation, I cannot suppress tumor growth, but you also have invisible risk factors for breast cancer. Of course, you know all of these, but please allow me just now to be your loving friend or mother. Here’s what we can do: wear sunscreen, eliminate tobacco, exercise daily, see the doctor regularly, get regular mammograms, avoid alcohol or drink it moderately, eat the most gorgeous healthy food, avoid radiation exposure, and…here’s a biggie straight from my heart and professional training as a counselor…address the invisible hurts, anger, anxiety, despair, and stress that make us vulnerable at the cellular level. To inhibit cancer cell growth, we can be proactive in tenderly nurturing our spirits with therapy, meditation, faith, and spiritual practice. It’s difficult to sort out the relationship between heartache and cancer cell growth, yet there is so much to gain from making positive life shifts NOW to lower our risks.
Third, I encourage you to let go of fear in terms of the prospect of cancer diagnosis, living with cancer, and fighting cancer. I say this with the utmost respect to all facing the unspeakable as a cancer patient or caregiver. My mother’s journey continues to shape my heart, and I feel compelled to voice what I now know: love is stronger than cancer, stronger than death, stronger than any prognosis. How is this possible, and isn’t this aerie-faerie? Because there can be healing in the absence of cure. Oh, friends, tears are rolling down my cheeks as I type these words. Healing can come even when good news and good lab reports do not. Healing is available and accessible no matter the circumstance. You see, the little caterpillar inside the chrysalis has no idea what is happening as her world comes unraveled. She comes undone and dissolves to the point that her old self is impossible to recognize. It feels like death and the end because in a sense, it truly is. The old is shattered. But the fragments are impossibly and beautifully re-arranged, and the weight of grief is lightened with winged glory.
You’re stronger than you think. You’re gonna fly, friend.
I wish you joyful moments of feeling fully alive in whatever messy beautiful stage of metamorphosis you find yourself.
I wish you courage to make healthy life choices that will bring you freedom and light.
I wish you perseverance as you resist the easy fixes and lean into grace.
I wish you peace, right where you are.
p.s. Come visit me at Hello Lovely Studio where Leslie is my guest.