Squeezing more out of life, a breast cancer survivor story

2/25/2019 9:42:00 AM

Squeezing more out of life

I have had the privilege of getting into contact with some amazing and special people from after BREAST CANCER. Strong, powerful, resilient women who all have a story. A story that they don’t keep a secret or whisper about, but proudly proclaim to the world. Because holding each other’s hands and linking their weapons of strength, help educate the world around them. It helps people who don’t have breast cancer understand why it’s still important to care. And their involvement at after BREAST CANCER immeasurably supports newly diagnosed women, both emotionally and physically. Because sometimes, all you need is someone to talk to you. The vision is to Make a Difference, One Woman, One Survivor at a Time. And that is what after BREAST CANCER is all about.

woman bra

Today’s powerhouse of inspiration comes from Eve Jade, after BREAST CANCER Ambassador, as well as founding Board Director. Even after BREAST CANCER founder Alicia Vianga, says, “without her help and guidance, we would not be this successful charity.” Eve is a 57 year old strong and happy woman, graduating from the bowels of cancer 10 years ago. Her three children are grown up, and she has even become a grandmother last year (or “Glam ma” like they love to call her)!

Eve’s goal stems from achieving the initial mission: to ensure women-especially cancer graduates-feel confident and attractive. Raising awareness about breast cancer saves a special place in her heart because every woman deserves this.

A common theme I noticed while contacting her, was her talk of empowerment.

Why are you an ambassador for breast cancer?

Empowerment. Information and hope is critical to those that are going through the journey I travelled ten years ago.  As an ambassador, I can seize the opportunity to make a real impact in the lives of others by letting them know it will be ok, they will get through this and come out of the vortex stronger and better.

Eve’s use of vortex here, is in my mind, a very powerful word that evokes imagery-which really hits the point. If you imagine an unexpected vortex, you imagine something with unexplainable winds and energy shooting out of nowhere, swallowing you, and attempting to grate away parts of you, BUT then a soft and comforting voice speaks out warmly you will get through this, you’ll come out stronger.

It makes a difference. Sometimes it’s the smallest things, that make the greatest impacts.

And sometimes we don’t even notice the heavy toils of everyday stress pulling us down like an anchor to the bottom of the ocean.

How did being diagnosed change you? Affect the way you look at yourself?

Being diagnosed was a positive change in my life. Although I physically lost a breast and thirty-six lymph nodes, I gained perspective. I was working too hard, ignoring the stress and fatigue that overwhelmed me. Cancer allowed me to pay attention to what’s important, me.

I don’t know about you, but the people who see the brightest colours of a picture when the picture doesn’t feel bright, are my favourite kind of people. Maybe sometimes it takes something serious and life-changing to happen for us to start understanding our bodies. To listen to its pulsating beat when it urges you to take it slow every once in a while. To care for yourself the way you would take care for a loved one. Because you are a loved one, first and foremost to yourself! You deserve only the best, no matter what circumstances.

Another nugget of gold Eve unfolded, was perspective. Jackpot. I picture gaining perspective, as in shifting your binoculars, adjusting your camera lens, squinting your eyes to see something you’ve never seen before.

My sexuality didn’t change, in fact I got sexier. I focused on what I had versus what I didn’t have as a result of the mastectomy. My husband was very supportive and we both just moved forward. Not asking myself “why me” allowed me to preserve my mental health. No point in crying about spilt milk, when life gives me lemons, I make lemonade.

I think we often have this image of preconceived notions of what someone with breast cancer should look like, should feel like, or even how we should treat them. I love Eve’s strong and brave character, and again, her leading quality of shifting her perspective. She held her head up high after initially being diagnosed. She perked not only her boobs out, but her mindful acceptance of having breast cancer-and yet was steadfast in remaining the same Eve she was before.

I wasn’t labeled as a survivor because I didn’t permit it. I held my head high, my back straight and my boobs out. I felt good and looked good so nothing changed.

Did you choose to have breast re-construction?

I considered re-construction, actually, I really wanted it. Sadly, I was not a candidate for implants. My husband and I used to joke that I would have the best boobs in the retirement home one day since I would get a perky implant then electively get an implant in the other breast. Well that plan didn’t materialize, we didn’t realize patients having undergone radiation were out of luck.

My only option was a back flap. I saw a specialist after 2 years then again after 4 years. I asked to meet with one of his back flap patients, her back and breasts looked fabulous, so tempting….. but my husband convinced me not to proceed. He loved me unconditionally and having elective surgery after the roller coaster year of a mastectomy (and Auxiliary Node Dissection), chemo and radiation was just too scary.  

woman wearing bra

woman prostesis

breast removed cancer

I think that’s beautiful, how a supportive significant other can step up and be a shield of strength in the weakest moments. We need more supportive men like that. We need more husbands like that. We need more people to love unconditionally, to love everything and everyone. After all, love makes the world go round.

Eve testifies a lot of her gratefulness to Alicia, and after BREAST CANCER because she was able to find seductive bras, bathing suits, and nightgowns, since she needed to be more selective in her clothing choices.

I needed to feel sexy so I found tops and dresses that provided cleavage but not too much to show my scar.

I am honoured to support ABC. A few years ago, there was a gap in the big bad world of breast cancer. During the journey, people were falling all over me to help, but when the year was over, I felt kicked out, having to forge into the brave new world by myself.  Where did I go for help, for information, education, clothes? Being a part of a charity as wonderful as ABC is humbling. Knowing I am helping so many women to be the best they can be is truly inspiring!

It’s hard for me to understand what it’s like to have breast cancer, or what that might feel like. It’s hard for every person who doesn’t have breast cancer, to understand what it’s like to have it. But I imagine, just like most life-changing experiences, we want to go back to the people we were before whatever struggle it was, enveloped us and “stole” our identity to someone completely new. We want to have the same characteristics, same routines, be unlimited. But I love how Eve’s story shows us that we can have both. Nothing can “steal” away our identities, because our heart and soul remains the same-no matter what happens physically. We can adjust life to fit with what nasty lemons come our way, but we don’t have to make it break down our bones. She attests her saving grace to always remaining positive.

What advice would you have for newly diagnosed woman?

Think of a black dot, let’s say the size of a quarter on a blank piece of paper. If I asked you to describe what’s on the page, I suspect you would tell me about the dot. But the black dot is merely a spec on the vast expanse of white on the 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, it is small compared to everything else you have in your life. See the light, the big picture, rather than focusing on the darkness. Don’t be drawn into the cancer, don’t let it suck you in like water spiraling in a toilet bowl.

So next time someone brings you food because they want to help and support you, let them knock themselves out. Eve says to bring it on! But also don’t forget that the community has great resources out there for you as well.

Join a support group. I have greatly benefitted from Hearth Place, Gilda’s and Wellspring. Each helped me in different ways whether it be emotionally, socially or financially. Take advantage of your hospitals, many offer multiple programs, everything from food to fitness.

Thank you Eve.

 

The goal of after BREAST CANCER is to empower each other. To empower breast cancer graduates, to make them feel confident in their own skin so they can go out in the world and empower others.

It’s a chain reaction, and we are the linking blocks. Each and every one of us.

There is a power in strength. There is a power in numbers.

There is a power in after BREAST CANCER.


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