LIVING AFTER BREAST CANCER

How I Met Angie

Through the magic of social networking, Breast Cancer SurThrivor, Angie Branstetter, contacted me a few months ago.   As most Survivors of this disease, we shared an immediate Sisterhood, similar to talking to other “stranger” Mommys who have  given birth and want to share their “stories.”   Like it or not, we women find healing and comfort in sharing some of life’s most intimate moments.  And when it comes to breast cancer and childbirth, we talk.

Life after breast cancer can birth us Survivors into SurThrivors (SurThrivers) if we choose to use our experience to improve the lives of others who will be rushed into a Sorority they never wished to join, by virtue of hearing six small words that will make a BIG impact on their lives, “I’m sorry.  You have breast cancer.”

Here is how Angie is choosing to live and SURTHRIVE!

Angie’s Mantra: “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives!”

Living after breast cancer.  Those words have become a mantra for me since I was diagnosed with Stage 1, Grade 2 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ with Invasive Carcinoma on August 25, 2010.  I focus on the first word: Living! To go about my day curious to all that could occur in my waking state. Excited to see what the day brings after the sun rises.  Next:  After.  Now.  At this moment.  Not looking back toward the past.  Beyond the scare.  Finally:  Breast Cancer.  The “Old Maid Card” I was unlucky to draw in this game of life.

I was asked by the radiologist who found the tumor and performed the biopsy if I’d known any women who were diagnosed with breast cancer.  I said I did.

“And what do you know about them?” he asked.

Trembling and tearful I answered, “They are survivors?”  It was a question not a statement.  I had hoped that my answer was correct.  Lots of women have breast cancer.  I knew of women who’d lived decades beyond their diagnosis and that was way before the treatments we have today.  So, as my head pounded and my ice cold fingers trembled, I looked into to his sky-blue eyes and blinked away my own tears.  “They are survivors?” I sputtered out again, hopeful.

Calmly and deliberately, looking me square in the face, eye-to-eye with his hand securely on my shoulder he said with compassion and surety, “You know they are LIVING with it.  They are LIVING with it.”

It all Started with Me

That was my first brush with the idea that I had breast cancer.  All that I thought I knew about breast cancer, and treatments, and survival rates meant nothing to me at that moment because breast cancer now applied to me.  Together my Donnie and I entered a new world.  I knew I wanted to attack whatever was growing inside my breast.  I knew I was afraid.  And I knew I wanted to live.

I can honestly say that although I wish I didn’t have to go through surgery and radiation I am better for it.  No one wants cancer.  No one deserves to get cancer.  But everyone touched by it, I believe, can grow into something they never would have without the disease.   If you’ve been diagnosed recently, getting ready.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.  But one you WILL LIVE through!

I don’t take my days for granted.  I don’t put important things off until tomorrow.  And important things don’t include washing my floor or ironing our clothes.

More Beautiful than Ever

I appreciate my body far more now than I ever did before.   I think my reshaped breast is even more beautiful now.  The curve from my scar actually gives my left breast a lift.  And my surgeon was careful to sculpt whatever tissue I had into a beautiful breast that looks identical to my right one.  Impressive work!  And the radiation burn scar?  It’s a conversation starter in the locker room!

I have become even bolder than I was before.  I flirt more.  I tease more.  I wear lower cut tops and shorter skirts.  I even posed for topless pictures!  (More on why that’s important another day…)  My Christmas card was a picture of “my girls” wrapped in a shear red ribbon.  And I filled the cards with glitter so the recipients would in fact “be glittered” in the spirit of survival!  Best of all I handmade brown paper bag envelopes.  Ya, I wanted to catch everyone’s attention!

I love more openly now.  I’m less concerned about “How will that look?”  or “What would ‘they’ say” .  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is “How did I love?”  and “What could I do?”  It’s incredibly freeing.

I no longer do things because someone might expect it or because I feel obligated to do it.  Screw that!  Does it fit my life?  Will it enrich my family’s life?  Will it matter to more than the person requesting it?  Those are the questions I ask now.

Loving My Husband Every Chance I Get

And finally, I make love to my husband every chance I get.  Intimate relations are so important to really living.  I know women who struggle in the bedroom and I have this to say:  “Figure it out!”  Life’s too short.  Jump in – or dive in!  Love your husband.  Love yourself.  Orgasms are great tension relievers and sleep enhancers.  And they just feel so good!  The sensation I get in my left nipple during orgasm is amazing now that my cancer is gone.  Girls you gotta  “get busy”!  Seriously!  If not for today then to make sure that if you die before your husband no woman will ever be able to take your place in bed!

Living after breast cancer?  YOU BET!  ‘Cause what’s the alternative?  Everybody dies…but not everybody lives.  We survivors, more than anyone else we know, get that.  Open your eyes, open your heart, open your body to life’s energy, God’s richest gift:  Love.  And live it up!

-Angie Branstetter

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