April 15, 2020
I never really wanted to make my work about breast cancer. Not exclusively. I fought it for a long time, the idea of tying too much of my identity up in a disease that people are terrified of. I didn’t want to be “the cancer chick”. But here I am.
And I’ve realized it’s right where I belong.
I have the unique experience and perspective of understanding breast cancer from different sides. I’ve been the person afraid of the day it might show up as I went through the motions of growing up “high risk”. I’ve been the person helping others in the thick of it by easing their pain and reducing their anxiety, even if only for moments at a time. I’ve been the one living through that pain and anxiety when it finally came calling. And now I am the one learning to recover and help others do the same.
Recovery doesn’t end when treatment does. Often it is just beginning.
What many people don’t realize is that even if a woman is lucky enough to be called “cancer free” that doesn’t mean cancer is gone from our lives. It may be gone from our bodies but at what cost? With what reminders? Most of us don’t walk out of surgery with “new boobs” that we can’t wait to show off. We walk out with pain and scars and a list of surgical revisions that need to be made. We gain tightness and swelling and reduced range of motion. We end up with burns on our skin from the radiation treatment. We get to keep the memory of being bald and not recognizing ourselves in the mirror. We gain fear of every ache and pain that used to be just part of growing older. We get cancer moving in to a small room in our psyche even if it has been evicted from our body.
We can also end up in the classic situation of be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. We wish to be set free from the appointments and hospitals and doctors, the poking the prodding, the invasion of privacy as we bare all for those who are caring for us. And eventually most of us get it. But with that freedom comes uncertainty. Now what? Who is taking care of us NOW? How do we know we will be ok if no one is watching anymore? Who do we talk to when everyone else around us thinks it’s over?
That’s why As We Are Now exists.
So that those of us who are figuring out this survivorship thing, or those managing chronic disease, have a place to be in community together in a way that is specific to our needs. Most of us aren’t falling apart. We are getting by and even enjoying life. To the outside world we look pretty good and we generally feel pretty good too. But it’s the stuff deep inside that we don’t often share. Even with those we love. The little voice of anxiety that says “what if…?” Or the whisper of pain that remains in a breast that is no longer there. Because unless you’ve been there, you can’t understand, not really. But we can. We can be there for each other and in doing so we show up for ourselves.
This time we show up not just to live, not just to survive, but to live WELL, to THRIVE.
By acknowledging the challenges we face and deciding we are going to take back control. To take back our power.
We can learn to see our bodies through a new lens. To look in the mirror and see beauty even when scars are staring back at us.
We can learn to treat our bodies with loving kindness and to approach our days with courageous joy. We can engage in intentional curiosity around the lifelong impacts we now face and, with purposeful commitment, we can learn how to care for our bodies in a way that reclaims our personal empowerment.
Together we can Recover from the pain. Reconnect with our bodies. Reclaim our Power.
I am so grateful to all who will share this with me. This is the start of my own journey as well. The start of accepting the healing I still need and the work with others that will help me get there. The birth of of my own form of advocacy that I was too afraid to own for a long time. As We Are Now is more than a business, more than a service, more than a program or even a community. It’s a movement. To empower women with education and skills that we deserve to have as we learn to be who we are now, to love ourselves as we are now, beyond breast cancer.
Are you a woman living with a history of breast cancer? Or a woman managing metastatic disease? Do you wish you had a safe space to build community (without a lot of the noise found on the free online “support groups”)? We’re waiting for you in the As We Are Now Community!
Do you struggle with ongoing issues related to surgery and treatment like pain, restricted movement, and tightness? Have you heard about risk of lymphedema but don’t really “get it” and wish you knew what to do? Our 6-Week Body Empowerment Program is focused on helping you recover from the physical and emotional challenges of breast cancer by teaching you how to reconnect with your body so that you can reclaim a sense of personal empowerment. Join us for our next program!
Amy Hartl is a woman living with a breast cancer history and a mutated BRCA1 gene. She has built a career helping women come back to their bodies and their sense of self through the power of human connection. As We Are Now LLC is her latest effort at helping women recover, reconnect, and reclaim their bodies after breast cancer. She also loves to build websites, listen to personal development books, and dream big for herself and others. She can eat raspberries every day of the week, loves her mom beyond words, and walks with her husband almost every morning.