Last weekend I attended a “Thriving Beyond Cancer” workshop put on by Breast Friends. There were 8 survivors in attendance. Most of these warriors have been in active treatment of some sort in the past 2 years, in varying journeys: some with a lumpectomy all the way up to mets (cancer lingo which means the cancer has metastasized to another body part) . No matter the stage of cancer or treatment, all of these women are fighters who want to thrive! The weekend was led by Sharon Henifin, the Co-Founder of Breast Friends who is also a Certified Life Coach. Yvonne Nydigger, the Patient Service Counselor was also on hand to support us and fed us very well with delicious home cooked meals and snacks. So many snacks!
The first night was all about sharing our journeys and what we wanted to get out of the weekend. I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Michelle and I am an over-sharer.” Sometimes I do feel that I am telling what I have been through even when it is not pertinent. It is not that I want sympathy, more that I want to connect with people and that is a pretty quick way to connect with someone, to tell them you had cancer and then move forward. It also is an easy way to explain why I move slowly, I nap almost every chance I get and why I can quite often be found taking off my top and socks, no matter where I am when the hot flashes hit. But it is amazing to share your story with a roomful of other women who know what you are going through, whose breasts, which we have always been “told” by society are one of the main parts of being a woman, have been either removed or tampered with and then somehow keep going. The women who participated in this weekend are truly warriors. We have all chosen to get up every day and move forward despite the setbacks we have all experienced.
Over the course of the weekend, Sharon led us in identifying our fears, thinking about what our futures could look like, what cancer has done in our lives which was positive (this one took a while for me, but then I remembered: no more bras, no more periods and most importantly, it has brought so many amazing people into my life) and to also set goals for the future, both short term and long term with identifiable steps. We also made amazing vision boards. Mine looked like an explosion with words and pictures going in all directions. It included love, family, positive phrases, Ellen DeGeneres (I soooo badly want to go see her show or even better to be a guest one day!), Adele (her voice is just so amazing) and P!nk (I just love everything about her honesty and the new album is so heartfelt and resonates with me especially the song ‘Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken). But I digress. It was really interesting to see how people created their boards. Some were horizontal, some vertical, some very linear and some even had their items going off the poster board. In the past, mine would have been very structured and clean. I really admired one which was like that, but mine was such a departure from that and I think it shows where I want to go in my life. Away from the norm and in new directions. It is currently up in my closet where I will see it every day and it will remind me to move purposefully toward the future, not to just let it happen to me. There are many messages which I took from the weekend. While cancer does not define us, it is a part of who we are. We need to move forward, work toward goals and continue to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. This is one of the suckiest groups to ever join, but the other members are phenomenal.