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  • Writer's pictureSandy Izsa

A year in review...

It has been one year since receiving a diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Let’s begin right there. Who gets a diagnosis of breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month?! Me, that’s who…and I was mad! It didn’t matter where I went; it’s all anyone spoke about. I will tell you that I was NOT ready to hear it!

I think my most raw memory of the beginning of this journey was the day I went for the biopsy to confirm what everyone already knew. Jason, my husband, was waiting in the car. There I sat by myself because no one was allowed in the hospital due to COVID. The words felt harsh and the doctor’s tone sounded mean, though it probably wasn’t. The biopsy was about to begin and the nurse offered to invite my husband inside. I said, "no.” After much convincing, I told her, “If Jason was going to come into the hospital, than everyone had better to change their tone.” Believe me. I was not nice about it. I told them he had lost his mother to breast cancer years ago and he did not deserve to go through this twice. I literally could not believe I was doing this to him. I was so ashamed. The things I was calling myself in that moment are not words that I feel comfortable putting in print!

So they invited Jason into the hospital. The tone of the appointment softened a bit and we began. Now I always knew that Jason was the kindest and most selfless person I’d ever met. However in that moment and for the months ahead, I learned that he is also the bravest person I know and the best coach on the planet!

I officially received this diagnosis. I remember all the things going through my head at the time… I was so angry. I thought I would forever be labeled as “sick.” I thought about every doctor’s appointment from there on out and what that medical history would look like. I was mad about this permanent mark on my otherwise perfect medical record. So silly but I continued to spiral.

Over the next several months, Jason demonstrated time and time again that he had the patience of a saint. Dropping everything to take me anywhere I needed to go. He spent hours waiting in the car during what felt like countless doctors’ visits. He calmly talked me off a ledge every time I was about to lose it. Those times were many!!

Then a turning point…. I was on the phone with Jason’s Aunt Mary who is lovingly referred to as Aunt Sissy and she said something along the lines of “When people are done going through their battle with cancer, they are often even stronger than they were before.” So I got to thinking Aunt Sissy might be onto something here… CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

So now what? In all seriousness…. more yoga! Not just yoga class but the deeper spiritual practices of yoga and reiki. Next, I took a good hard look at my life in general and decided what parts of it I wanted to keep and what parts of it really needed to go!

So what did I learn?

They say you find out who your friends are when things like this happen. For me that was not true. I thought I already knew who my true friends were and I thought I was blessed with many. What I did learn is that I was absolutely correct.

I learned to reminisce about “the good old days” a little less in favor of returning to doing the things that bring me joy now.

I learned that I needed to take a good look at my work and stop doing what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing and start doing more of what I love.

I learned that professionally my team is ready, willing and able to pick up the slack when I need a break.

I learned that it is okay to ask people to wait both professionally and personally.

I learned that I can be comfortable saying “no.”

I learned that when I need to take a step back, be silent and see no one people understand.

I learned that I have many choices. I can make my own decisions and the only person who needs to be happy with those decisions is me.

I learned that if I make a mistake the Earth will not stop spinning on its axis for goodness sake!

I learned that I am very capable of being my own worst enemy, and it is time I learn to be my own best friend.

I am a survivor:

I truly hope this portion of my story does not offend anyone. This is reflective of my opinion and my own experience. Please know that everyone has the right to create and own their story. Each and every person’s experience is the correct experience.

I remember this time last year telling my husband that I would never identify as a breast cancer survivor. I can’t remember the words that I used. I just remember that my brain was screaming. I believe it was likely mean as he was honoring his mother and that is exactly what he should have been doing. I still can’t find the right words to describe why I felt so strongly about not carrying that label.

As year one and chapter one has come to a close, I will gladly accept the label of “survivor.” However in terms of “breast cancer survivor,” I’m still not there. Maybe I am still living with some level of denial. Right now, I don’t feel that I fought that battle. I feel like the medical community fought it for me. All I had to do was show up and be somewhat amenable to their plan of action. Again, this is only my experience. However, the battle I fought and continue to fight is within me. That is the survivor title that I will accept with honor.

To all those individuals that have lost their battle with cancer and to the family and friends that have been left behind, you are loved.

To those that are currently fighting their battle with cancer, I wish you strength and many blessings. May you be comfortable honoring your own needs. May you be surrounded by people that are able to lift you up when you are down. May you have at least one loving, brave coach in your corner. Finally, if you are lucky enough to have a talk with “your” Aunt Sissy by all means listen!! You will be smarter, stronger and happier than you were before this all began!


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