GETTING IT BACK
Ever feel like you are in a dream....everything is wonderful and suddenly you look up and there is a mac truck in your face? That is how I felt when I woke up from my breast biopsy back in Sept 2000. My life was wonderful. I had three adorable kids who were the light of my life Tim 6, Matt 4 and Holly 2, and a great husband, Keith. The biggest thing I worried about was what kind of pancakes the kids and I were going to make that day, or what park we were going to head out to. Over a series of months I had noticed a chain of small lumps in my right breast develop and thought for sure they were cysts. It was the breast surgeon that I finally saw that saved my life, Dr David Kaufman. Because my breast were dense at 32 years old, the lumps did not show up on the mammo and he insisted that I have them biopsied. I fought this idea. I was so busy with my kids and did not want to take the time to be in the hospital for a day. I also somehow thought that because I had such small breasts there was no way it would be cancer. Almost annoyed with having to do this procedure I dragged myself there. When I awoke from the anesthesia all I could see was the worried face of Dr Kaufman and the words I could not comprehend "Doris it is cancer, you have to come back tomorrow for a mastectomy"........Cancer? I didn't know anyone who had cancer. I did not have any of the risk factors. Had all three kids under thirty, breast fed them all, never on the pill, no family history, 32 years old. Are you kidding me????. "Fine"....I said to myself. I came home I looked my breast in the mirror, thanked it for nursing my three kids and serving me well....and said "goodbye".
The next six months were filled with treatment.......mastectomy, chemo and radiation. "Stage 2, ER positve, two positive lymph nodes" became part of my everyday language. Losing my hair was hard but let me tell you the perks......the soft feeling when you put your bald head on a pillow, the feeling of the wind blowing across your scalp, the feeling of my kids little hands rubbing it, laughing at the signs my husband used to hang around the house after a chemo treatment that said, "Hey wash your hands baldy!"....I had an awesome family that stood by me and helped me every step of the way including my beautiful parents.
The best feeling about getting through your treatment is getting your life back and being in control of it again. I can remember after I finished radiation the best feeling for me was taking my three kids to the beach. To be their mother again and take care of them, it was what got me through the whole experience. The only thing I prayed for was for God to let me live so my kids did not have the pain of losing their mom at such a young age. I asked for one thing, let me live to see my son Timmy make his Communion and I will be happy. I went on Tamoxifen for five years and throughout those years Timmy made his Communion, then Matthew then Holly. I cried like a baby when we picked out Holly's dress and thought God has given me all that I have asked for. If I die tomorrow my three kids are old enough to remember me. Thank you God!
Fast forward to 2009. I joined Facebook and joined a Breast Cancer group. One day I saw a message from Michael Colanero seeking breast cancer suriviors for a fine art body painting project on the support group's site. I love art and decided to investigate. I was so taken back by the beautiful images that were there. Daylilies at Night was one of the ones I could not stop looking at. Something about looking at the breasts and where the scars lie, but seeing instead an image of art. The project touched my heart and I immediately wanted to be part of it. At the same time I was nervous to do it. I had a right mastectomy and not reconstructed. I went from biopsy to mastectomy within twenty four hours. After my radiation I wanted to reconstruct but at that point it was too late. No regrets, I had my life, losing a breast is a small price to pay. However, at times I did and still do feel the pain of not having that bit of femininity that makes a woman feel like a woman. I contacted Michael and told him my story. I also told him that my mastectomy scar never sees the light of day and I was nervous. He was so kind and I immediately got a sense of the kind of human being he is. With my sister Colleen in tow I boarded the plane for Florida and began this journey. My session of being painted was being taped for the PBS special which for me added a whole layer of nervousness on top of already nervous feelings. Men with cameras pointed six inches from my scar was something I could never imagine getting through. But when I looked at my beautiful sister and listened to the kind words of Michael I found the strength to to move forward. I desperately wanted to show anyone facing illness that you can survive. That the pain, the anger, the fear and despair are only temporary. You may lose some things in the battle, like my breast, but you can find the strength inside yourself to endure and go on. That day and the people I met have changed me forever. Michael Colanero and Keegan (who painted me) were amazing, kind and understanding. Shirley Ravachi from PBS a survivor also made me feel so comfortable. Maria Santaella, The Warrior, who was also painted that day is one of the strongest, warmest women I have ever met. I walked away from this experience falling in love with a beautiful group of people who have enabled me to share my message of hope with the world through art. I am forever grateful. I also came away looking at myself in a different light. I have become more comfortable with my body and for the first time in ten years, can wear tank tops!! Thank you Michael! My message, Cancer is a beast but it leaves in it's wake the strongest people I have ever met. :)
Please read our original post about the fabulous BCABBP
For more information please email Michael Colanero at BCABPP@uncommonstock.net
Photos used with permission of Michael D.Colanero & UNCOMMON GALLERY.
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