I was diagnosed with breast cancer four days after my 32nd birthday. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I was flooded with many emotions. My mind was clouded with “what if?” thoughts, “why me?” and I wondered how others would feel about me once they knew I had cancer. I toyed with the idea of telling others, trying to decide how and when I would share this information. I played scenarios in my mind of how the other person would react and how my life would be after they knew. The most difficult part for me was starting the conversation, but it became easier as I told more people. To my surprise, opening up to my friends and family actually made our bond much stronger. The scenarios that I played in my mind were the complete opposite of what really happened; I was still seen as the person that I had always been to them - absolutely nothing had changed.
Opening up to my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, was a little more difficult because of the intimacy factors. When I was initially diagnosed, I immediately opted for a bilateral mastectomy and delayed reconstruction. This being the case, I was very nervous in intimate situations. I avoided hugs and cuddling, not because of pain, but because I feared he would feel my flat chest. He noticed my hesitation even before I had a chance to say anything. He stopped me instantly and assured me that he loved me and that love extended past missing appendages. He reiterated that his love for me wasn’t based on the physical.
So the conversations that I thought would be difficult were made easy by my loved ones. They gave me the assurances I needed, they treated me the same as they always had, and went the extra mile when needed.
I learned a few things on my breast cancer journey. I learned that people are stronger than I gave them credit for. I gained a deeper understanding of unconditional love. I learned that breast cancer would not overshadow the relationships that I had formed over the years - it actually made them stronger. I learned that intimacy and love did not have to end with the diagnosis. Breast cancer changed my relationships, but not in the way that you would think. Breast cancer gave me a greater appreciation of life, love and the people in my life.