December 14, 2020
I see you out there.
You’re buried under pink ribbons, and fatigue, and probably don’t recognize yourself in the mirror right now.
They’ve slapped stickers all over you like name tags that say “Hi, my name is…. WARRIOR! FIGHTER! SURVIVOR! THRIVER! (insert other cancer cliche here)”.
But it’s hard to feel like a warrior when you’re mid-chemo: bald and pale with no energy.
You stare so long at your own face wondering where you went and if you can ever find the “you” you knew again.
You’re smiling (or trying to).
You want to be the “good” cancer patient. The one who beats it and gives everyone a reason to cheer.
But inside you’re scared and angry and all you want to do is live.
And if you are one of the lucky ones who gets out alive, that new normal they promised? Not so normal is it.
Somehow this one experience has become a permanent part of your identity and you feel like that’s all anyone sees when they look at you now when all you want to do is move on.
But I see you, the REAL you, and I understand. You are not alone.
Not just because I have also had breast cancer but because I too am one of the quiet ones.
You don’t want to claim ownership of this diagnosis.
You don’t want to wear it as a cape – literally or figuratively – to prove your strength to the world.
You don’t want to be defined by this disease.
And you don’t have to be.
You are SO much more than your diagnosis and I’m here to remind you of that.
You are WOMAN complex and unique!
You are not one pink ribbon in a sea of thousands, your face becoming blurred and hazy among the masses.
You are a beautiful mosaic made up of a million colors.
All of the nuances and intricacies of your life blending to create the perfect piece of art that is you.
Pink might be one of your colors.
Breast cancer might be one of your experiences.
But it is only one tile in an elaborate mosaic of your life.
“We are mosaics. Pieces of light, love, history, stars… Glued together with magic and music and words.”
This is what we are as women. Pieces of light, love, history, stars.
We are made up of those who created us and yet still shaped by those we create.
We are full of adorable personality traits and trying character flaws.
We are filled with love and struggle with anger and sadness.
We have regrets but still dream of the future.
We are too big, too vast, too complicated to be defined by one color, by one symbol, by one experience.
So remember that when you are feeling like this cancer thing is a sign taped to your back that everyone is pointing at but you can’t reach to get rid of, that someone still sees you for YOU.
All of you.
And together we will take our tiles and put the pieces together and find real connection, with ourselves and with each other, because we are real people, not a just another portrait of breast cancer.
And we will learn to love ourselves again, as we are now.
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 beyond breast cancer. She also loves to crochet even though she doesn’t know how to follow a pattern and she’s only known how to do one stitch for roughly 30 years. This means everyone get’s baby blankets with stripes because that’s all she knows how to make but she does so with love.
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!
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