I took up kickboxing and resistance training a few months ago as part of a 10 week challenge. I’ve never felt stronger or more fit. I kicked, jabbed, and sweated six days a week for three months. I savored the challenge of pushing my previously weak body to new heights. In the process, I dropped 5% body fat as well as two pants sizes. I felt like I was finally in charge of my physical body. I felt invincible while wearing those glorious boxing gloves.
Six days ago I found out I have breast cancer. What a blow! The finding was the result of my very first mammogram (for which I was referred because I turned 40 this year). I never expected it to be anything but routine. Yet there I was, face down and scared as I went through a biopsy. Despite the bad news, I’m still lucky. I have Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) and it’s considered Grade 1 which is infinitely better than Grade 3.
Nevertheless, no matter how many times I look at those gloves, the image of the enemy doesn’t go away. No matter how strong I believe I am physically and how many push ups I can muster, I still have cancer.
How can this happen? How can I be in my best shape ever yet also at my worst? My brain can’t process it.
When I learned the news, I felt numb. I just couldn’t seem to focus. Two dear friends sat with me as I tried to make sense of nonsense. I remember joking that this couldn’t be happening because I don’t even like the color pink! Isn’t breast cancer synonymous with pink ribbons? I didn’t FEEL sick. Shouldn’t I FEEL sick if I have cancer?
Feelings of uncertainty were soon replaced with anger. I’m too young to have to mess with this and I’m too busy. I’m angry that I won’t be able to focus my energy on learning the nuances of a new city but rather on fighting this lousy disease. I’m angry that I have to have surgery and radiation therapy instead of extra time with my children. I’m angry that I have to explain cancer to an eight and four year old.
One thing that’s been true all my life is that I’m stubborn. I mean SUPER stubborn. Most of the time it gets me into trouble. But this time, on this rare occasion, I believe it will save my life.
So I’m pulling my boxing gloves on to knock out a different kind of opponent. I plan to win. I plan to become mentally and spiritually strong. I might have some bad days along the way. On those days, I’ll draw strength from the people who have walked or are walking this journey. My grandfather beat breast cancer. My Aunt Lynda is a 25 year survivor of breast cancer. My cousin Victoria battled breast cancer. My cousin Heidi is an ovarian cancer survivor. I also think of a special little girl, Bella, who shines brightly and reminds me to have hope.
I’m grateful that early detection gives me a fighting chance. I will find sunshine through this journey–I’ve already seen some as God holds me in His palm.