First, I want to state that when the photographer, my friend Genevieve, showed me the photo to the right, I cried. Hard.
The symbolism of the blurred chest was profound. The picture as a breast cancer survivor speaks volumes and I know my warrior sisters will agree. I am a woman who is tired and scared. I am a woman who is stressed and worried that my health could get worse at any moment. At any doctors appointment, tests could come back with more bad news. I’m dreading another surgery but know that there is no other option. I am battling the beast and don’t want to give in. I don’t think, “Why me?” but “This is me.” The crazy thing is this chest is not me anymore– it is fake and has no feeling, yet when I look at it I feel so much. I have no feeling about how they look or what they are because they are so foreign to me. I feel pain and stress. I feel overwhelming guilt that I survived, yet power that I beat it at the same time. I see me, the same woman I was, but a woman who now looks at the world in a different light.
When my husband looks at this photo, this is what he sees…
“Ann Marie, you asked me to add something in here. In part I think because you thought I would be uncomfortable with you posting this picture. I’m way past that at this point. One thing I can say about this whole experience is that I’ve fallen in love with you in a way that seems more awake and urgent than ever before. When you showed me this photo, I told you it was beautiful. Yes, I see the pain and the stress. But I can also see past it. I see someone that is so strong and so brave. I see someone whose beauty was not diminished by adversity, but was increased by it. It’s a strange thought, but I think the sense of purpose you now have about your life was a gift that cancer never meant to give you. You will struggle through the physical changes and I believe you will arrive in a place that you can feel comfortable with yourself. It’s hard for you to look in the mirror now, but it’s just as hard for me to stop looking at you. X O”
I see the real side to breast cancer; I see my side of the journey. I am a woman who was not defined by cancer but refined by this battle.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.