This October 6th marks a landmark day I have been dreaming of. Five years ago I was quoted statistics that if I had surgery, did chemo and radiation, I had a good chance of living another five years. Well here it is, and though I did do some chemo, a decision I question frequently, I did not do surgery or radiation and live with my breast cancer tumor every day.
I am not cocky, nor judgmental of other women’s paths. I support a women’s right to choose her own care of her own body. The most difficult aspect of diagnosis for me was wanting to know in an organized way what women had done other than surgery, chemo and radiation. This has become the mission statement of the Breast Wishes Fund, to make integrative breast cancer treatment and breast wellness available to women of all ages. We don’t advocate one path or another, just offer information that your surgeon might not propose with anecdotes and film footage of some of these routes.
Since my first diagnosis, I have documented my path. At first with the leadership of award-winning directors Michael Mierendorf and Dyanna Taylor with Liza Bambanek giving generously of her cinematographic expertise. I spent the spring assembling a work in progress of the ME film, giving it to HBO, POV and Sundance requesting funding to complete this personal, character-driven saga of birth, death and rebirth. Working on this film was like being in therapy eight hours a day. I haven’t cried that much since I was diagnosed. How painful to see my self as a brat to my father, reliving the fear of dying and disfigurement, being partner less through it all. I am grateful now though for the completion of a transformation I started five years ago, with this “therapy”. My father and I have come to a place of love and acceptance I believe we have not known between us for decades. I am in a transformative relationship with a loving man I was in love with twenty years ago. Regardless of my financial situation being at an all time low, I know I must persist with this work, for my self and for others.
A woman yesterday told me of her sister’s journey and re-inspired me to move forward with the Breast Wishes Fundraiser this October 9th at Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, NM. She said her sister had been diagnosed four years ago, was directed to have a double mastectomy or she would have an 85% chance of dying within a few years. She had the surgery. She was told to have a hysterectomy, she had a partial. Just recently she has had a lot of pain in her ribs and discovered another tumor where her breasts were. Her initial diagnosis was four years ago and how much fearful pain and suffering has this woman has endured? Would the outcome have been different had she done nothing or used integrative methods? We don’t know though I am documenting my path as a guinea pig so others may see what I go through and decide for themselves.
It has taken these five years for my hair to grow back to any resemblance of real hair. On October 6th on the Santa Fe River, we will host a public head shaving ceremony in solidarity for those living with cancer, no matter what their treatment path is or if you have cancer. My friends and family have urged me to not shave my head again though I feel I must honor this anniversary in a cleansing way that challenges my vanity. What I learned from losing my long, luscious locks five years ago was that my femininity and beauty had been masked behind this hair. I have forced myself and others to endure my baldness, lack of eyebrows because I am not going to pretend this cancer and chemo, didn’t happen to me. This has forced me to walk my truth at times when I would rather lie or take an easier path. Not wanting to be a martyr, this road is my reason for living. To right some wrong my Aunt, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother endured with their breast cancers and multiple surgeries. To move from a place of empowerment as opposed to a place of fear. The Breast Wishes Fund’s main goal is to support this credo, to move from the center of the individual, not only the statistic.
We’d gratefully appreciate art and food donations for the fundraiser as well as your generous financial support. We are in the midst of becoming a non-profit and would like to have a more consistent internet and community presence. Thank you and please share your feelings and thoughts with us.