The story of breast cancer graduates is a story of warriors, women that are so strong it inspires you to try to even be a sparkle of what makes them so great. Today’s powerhouse of inspiration comes from Olga Lambert, after BREAST CANCER Ambassador. Olga is really special to me, and I got that impression about her immediately after talking to her and hearing her voice. Her positive energy radiates all around, it’s unexplainable, you can just feel her kindness, selflessness, and strong nature. I was blessed by her, and hope you are too.
How was cancer initially detected?
Olga was diagnosed at age 48, 10 years ago at around stage 1 or 2. She discovered a lump in late August 2008, and only got it checked out in late November 2008. She was scheduled for surgery in Jan 2009, but by that time, the cancer was progressing rapidly to a full 90% of the breast, necessitating a mastectomy.
The type of breasts I had was called “lumpy breasts”. The doctor suggested a mammogram. I had already done a mammogram 6 months earlier and been doing them every year since the beginning of my forties, as well as self-examinations in the shower. The self-examination in the shower is how I noticed something lumpy, something different.
How did you feel when you first received the news?
After a biopsy and 72 hours later, I got a call. I was not thinking about cancer. I had a healthy lifestyle: no junk food, physically active, no alcohol, no family history of cancer; it was a complete shock. I had breast cancer. I was not prepared for that. My doctor didn’t even want me to walk or drive home on my own, she asked someone to drive me home because I wasn’t myself.
I think it’s so unfair how the healthiest people are left with the weight of the world sometimes. It’s so out of anyone’s control, the only thing left to do is anchor yourself, and re-direct it to a place of healing and peace. Of course, that’s always easier said than done, but in whatever situation we are in, we can let the negativity sink in and then allow it to sail to greater depths of the ocean, for fighting, recovery, and immeasurable possibilities.
I immediately thought, “But I have my boys.” This doctor is my family doctor, she had delivered my boys, she was there with me before I got married or had kids. She was also there for me throughout my separation from my spouse. She left an impression on me I will never forget, “You have to take care of your mind, I’ll make sure to take care of your body.”
What powerful words. We can all take away something from this short but sweet statement. No matter what unearthly toil our physical state embodies, we must keep our mind on lockdown, and never let it out of the cage for negative energy to poison its essence. It’s all about the lens we choose to adjust. All about the burst of colors we choose to see in our world that might feel like shades of grey. Of the many gold pieces of wisdom that Olga shines through for, that’s a big lesson I learned.
How did being diagnosed change you?
I’m usually a happy positive person, it’s who I am. People worried more about me than I did about myself. I knew I was going to fight it, I had to take care of myself. The first step was to get educated, I didn’t know anything about cancer! I flew to the library, and my interest wasn’t in the medical aspect of breast cancer, but how people deal with it, I wanted to hear more about their experiences! I listened to audiobooks in the car, it gave me comfort, and it made me feel like I could continue to do it all. Breast cancer wasn’t going to stop me from doing anything.
There’s a tip for all who are newly diagnosed: get yourself learning! Being engrossed in a whole new world (even though it might not be the direction you thought your life would take, but now that it has, you can only go up from here), and taking the time to understand your body.
Someone from the audiobook kept saying, “Why not me?” And it really got me thinking, why not me? If I don’t want to have breast cancer, someone else will have it. Why is it okay for someone else to be sick and go through it, but not me? Usually, it’s instinct to think: why am I suffering and this other person is okay? But think about this: why are you okay and this other person is sick? Someone has to do it and live through it. That helped me. I never dwelled in it. I was going to get myself better. “Why not me” became my motto. My kids, my faith, and my attitude helped me.
That’s incredibly profound to me. “Why not me”. It takes a universal amount of energy to have so much sympathy for others that you accept the roadblocks that come your way because you want to free the path for others to freely cross. You twist them and conquer them, and pave a road for others. That signifies an exceptional person to me. It’s something I hadn’t even thought about. Why? Because I’m selfish. When I’m going through something, I complain and am jealous of other’s happiness. But this is a game-changer. We are all equal, we all have an equal chance of happiness and challenges.
How did it affect your sexuality?
By the time my cancer hit I was already divorced, a single mom with preteen kids. I was seeing someone regularly for 2 years who was around when I was going through treatment. However, after surgery and chemo, he simply told me it was over. “Happy New Year, I’m moving on” was all he said. No explanation, no reason. It was more shocking to me than cancer. Did he break up with me because of my mastectomy? I didn’t want to ask, he didn’t give me the opportunity. I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me.
Talk about someone who scares easily. We do NOT need that type of negativity in our lives. Better to know his true colors now than later. Whatever is meant for you, will come….and truly stay. I wholeheartedly believe that.
How did breast cancer affect your work? Affect the way you look at yourself?
I didn’t work for 2 years after finding out. The chemo side effects were great body pain, and my workplace was understandable. I’ve had cancer three times, and every time it gets harder every time. I was tired, my body ached, I experienced joint pain, had hot flashes, and even launched into menopause right away. The doctor said my body went into shock, like hot water immediately turning ice cold. I lost a lot of hair; they say you grow it back but mine never did, it actually got worse. I had to shave my head and still have bald patches. I had to appreciate my body the way it was. Body image didn’t bother me.
Everyone reading these words, I urge you to take heart in knowing that your body is wonderful, your body is special, and your body is fighting for you. No matter what is going on, note its resilience, and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You are never alone.
During my cancer, I was not looking at myself in the mirror. And it wasn’t even intentional. Instead, I would take pictures of myself every couple of months. When I received the bad news: picture. When I had my mastectomy and lost hair: picture. It was all throughout different stages of myself, and yet I never paid attention to myself. I went to the bathroom without looking at myself in the mirror.
It was only 9 months later after the camera was full, that I looked at the pictures and started crying. I couldn’t recognize myself, “who is she?” I had said. I finally looked at the mirror: it was a different me. And it’s not necessarily because of the physical differences like hair loss. But just seeing my face being somebody else. It’s hard to handle emotionally and mentally. I would just get up and cry because, what was going to be of tomorrow? What about my boys, will I be around? What do we do now? Yes, it is hard, but you have to find a way. I want to see my kids graduate, I want to be okay to make it to their graduation. I want them to see me.
This story really affected me. Our society prioritizes looks so much, I don’t know if it’s the societal pressure’s fault or each of our own. But can you imagine not looking in the mirror for even a day? I honestly can’t. Be honest with yourself, can you? It’s only in the hard times that our iron-strong capabilities are reeled out-ones we didn’t know we had. You have to focus on what’s blooming in your life, in whatever you are going through. But also know that you are way tougher than you lead yourself to believe. Through the darkness, better days are ahead.
Did being diagnosed affect the way people treated you? Did anything change?
My friends were extremely supportive—and still are today! If you have a good community to help you, to check on your children, to push you, to let you know “you can do better,” you get a boost of energy from it. The hard part about it is that everyone wants to be your doctor. You have to navigate through that while trying to figure it for yourself as well. It becomes overwhelming, they have good intentions, but when you alone can’t navigate this disease, you have to rely on the fate of your doctor. Friends can completely contradict the doctor saying that chemo is not a good option, that you should go natural/holistic, but you have to step yourself out of it. Do your own research and take action on what is best for you. Learn to tune it out.
If I compare this to even today’s modern age, it’s difficult to discern real advice from deceit, or even good intentions from bad ones. In general, it is hard to navigate life with the constant opinions of others bombarding you. But mix that with a bunch of people trying to diagnose and heal you based on what they read, I can see where that can get confusing. Like anything, my best advice (from someone very inexperienced, but my good intentions are there I promise!) is that your intuition always knows what’s up. You know your heart better than anyone else, sometimes it just takes the courage to own up to it, to be brave in saying “this is what I want, and what I’m going with.” Period.
You don’t have to defend yourself.
You just have to have faith in yourself and believe that your every heartbeat, your every cell, is whispering to you the truth that you already know.
You have to be strong enough to listen to that voice.