I know a fiery redhead who loves nothing more than to eat up a dance floor with her soulful, mercurial movements, wild hair flying.
For the past few months, however, the passion and energy that found their expression in her dancing have been skulking away bit by bit, scared off by the breast cancer diagnosis that moved in and took their place. The months of medical appointments, scans, and life and death decisions led to a shift in the ambiance of her life, from peaceful days enjoying retirement and playful nights out with her tribe to a state of stress, worry, and indecision.
She researched treatments and outcome statistics. She plotted out the history of breast cancer in her family tree. She carefully listened to the stories and advice of friends who had already faced down this foe. But in the end, the decision was up to her.
She prepared herself well for this journey and the surgery she had chosen (or some would say had chosen her): a double mastectomy. The day before her procedure, her friends threw her a “Boobvoyage” party, where her sisters and these wonderful women circled around, filling the room to overflowing with love, support, and humor–all the most potent kinds of medicine. And the dancing even returned a bit–a little restrained, but dancing nonetheless.
The next day–as many people do–she had to endure pre-op anxiety and a challenging post-op recovery. Then, after just a couple of days in the hospital, they sent her home to begin climbing her way back to her new “normal.”
Emerging from her oncologist’s office about a week later, grasping a clean bill of health, she looked like she was coming up for much-needed air, feeling the sweet relief of that first full breath after being submerged in cold, dark waters.
Yes, her body looks different, with an angry red scar marking its new territory across her chest. And the pain still creeps in around the edges. But this morning, now about ten days post-surgery, this sister I love is up to her old tricks. She’s cranked up “That Old Time Rock ‘N Roll” and entered the dining room dancing, a huge, mischievous grin above her tender, redesigned chest. And with her bold entrance, she has pushed out the walls of this small, dark room and filled it with light and air. She is the beautiful, spinning image of courage, pain and hope.
She is a “surthriver” in the truest sense. Yes, her body has changed in a profound way. But her spirit is too large, too determined to be defined by those physical changes. My spunky, red-headed sister has faced that foul-breathed, bullying disease head on and kicked it right out of her life. It will no longer be breathing down her neck, threatening to steal her future. And now that she has pushed through to the other side, something tells me that soon she will be out on that dance floor with her friends, moving with even more passion as she savors the life she fought so hard to protect.