On a May afternoon in 2016, in Houston, Texas, USA, I found myself sitting in the office of a renowned plastic surgeon, discussing breast cancer-related reconstruction. He asked me to tell him about myself.
I remember starting to list my cancer journey thus far: date of discovery of lump in breast, diagnosis, type and stage of cancer… He promptly cut me off and said that he didn’t want to know about my cancer; he wanted to know about me.
It’s interesting how cancer is so overwhelming that, with its introduction into your life, it can easily take over your own identity!
Yet before I became a breast cancer warrior and now survivor, I referred to myself as many things: healer, writer, dancer, poet, artist, student of Sufism, among many other things – a self-described contemporary Renaissance woman. All that went – poof – with the advent of cancer, that I sat there in Dr B’s office at a loss for words for how to describe myself.
And, yet, it seemed to me that, prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn’t as interesting to people as when I was… Before, during, and after cancer, my personality, outlook on life, tendency towards certain kinds of actions, etc. have been consistent. But it was only during and after cancer, that I kept hearing the word ‘hero’ attached to my person.
I am no more a hero now than before I started battling cancer. While my journey has been long and hard, what kept me going without complaining too much was the thought of others going through the same thing, who were much younger, or much older, or lacking support or resources, and so on…
In our modern times, we share stories and learn from one another not around a village campfire, physically in each others’ presence, but by the glow of a computer screen or mobile device, essentially, alone – even if we are in the midst of people. In fact, often, despite being surrounded by people, many of us feel quite lonely.
In my life, I have often felt that way even though I make friends at the drop of a hat and, indeed, have many (friends, not hats). Fortunately, I have been blessed with a gift for communication via many different ways.
Creative self-expression has kept me sane and alive all these years. Through the sharing of my life experiences, I relieve my sense of isolation by connecting with others on a very deep, personal level. Therefore, while it helps me, it also helps others. We all have our unique talents; and these have to be used in order for us to truly feel fulfilled.
So, hello, and welcome to my world.