A letter to my body.

My Dearest Body,

Everything is different but nothing has changed. 3 days before double mastectomy to remove cancer, captured by Andres Hernandez make-up and hair by Monica Gaviria. *Censored for my dad's sanity.

I have ignored your cries, called you names, been embarrassed by you, mistreated you, judged you, starved you, and yet still you are here-Loving me.

Now, I just asked you to do the unthinkable. I cut into you, had parts of you cut off, parts of you cut out. I poisoned you over and over for months. Every time you heal. How did I get so lucky to have you?

Body, how quickly you can change, but I find you more beautiful now than ever before. Andres Hernandez captured the transition.  

Finally, I hear your cries as I push you beyond what you are ready to handle. I see your wounds from the abuse I have inflicted upon you. I am sorry. You are the love of my life, with me since the spark of my existence on this Earth and you will be with me until my last breath. You give me unconditional love, you show up without complaining, you support me even though I don’t always support you. 

Skin sparing double mastectomy and skin expanders with a double lumen port on the right side.*Censored for my Dad's sanity. 

I have learned so much from you. You have shown me compassion and compromise. You have been my biggest example of love: quietly sustaining, always there, growing with me through every stage of my life. You show me how inherently intelligent you are and in turn I must be. I don’t know how to grow nails or hair or eyelashes, how to fill the space inside when organs are removed, but you do. You always communicate honestly and immediately. When there is something wrong, you tell me. First with a gentle tap and when I inevitable don’t listen--with a push. 

You only ever want the best for me. You only ever want me to succeed. I love you body! You are my best friend, my confidant, my lover.

You mother me and you protect me. You fight my battles. I want to be with you for the rest of my life, cherish you, hold you, caress you, kiss you, hug you, love you. You accept me and I promise from this point on to accept you. I will listen to you. I will lift you up. I will compliment you. I will feed you. I will mother you. I will protect you. After all you have done for me, this is my promise to you.

Forever in your debt,

Aniela

  • BRCA 1 +
  • Diagnosed Stage 1, Ductal Breast Cancer, ER/PR + & HER2 -, Sept. 30th, 2014
  • Skin Sparing Bilateral Mastectomy with Expanders & Sentinel Lymph node Biopsy, Oct. 24th, 2014
  • Double Lumen Port Placed for Chemo, Dec. 8th, 2014
  • 4 rounds of Adriamycin & Cytoxan, 9 rounds of Taxol, Dec. 17th, 2014 - April 13th, 2015
  • Complete Hysterectomy, Laparoscopic, May 11, 2015

I'm Scared to ask...for HELP.

“I need help”. Why are these three little words so hard to say? For some, "I LOVE YOU", is the scariest triple word combo, for me its "I NEED HELP". I cringe before saying it. Is it because people will know I can’t do it all? Is it because people might reject me? 

Clearly, I should have asked for help when I cut my own bangs at 9 years old. 

Being vulnerable is horrifying, to show your underbelly and trust that people won't attack it or even worse IGNORE IT. My mother and father always told me that words are cheap. You can say "I love you" as much as you want, but real love is ACTION. You must SHOW love, not just say it.

A few days ago this was put to the test. My first treatment of Taxol had been scheduled 3 weeks in advance but I waited until the last minute to get a chemo buddy (someone to pick me up, hang with me, and drive me home). I knew that I had 5 people in my immediate circle who said they would help but when I called each of them (the day before chemo <—I know, I am a dope and that is my fault) they all had plans, people visiting, prior obligations, etc. My husband offered to drop me off and leave work early to pick me up, but that meant this would be my first time alone at chemo, plus I felt guilty making him leave work. A wave of self pity washed over me. I knew that I had done this to myself by waiting until the day before treatment but it didn’t shake the fact that I felt like an orphan in that moment, unloved, alone and a burden to those around me. Once I pulled myself out of my self-imposed pity-party, I was determined not to let this happen again. 

I realized that I had so many issues wrapped up in accepting help. It's easier to give help than to receive it. Giving made me feel good, receiving made me feel guilty. I didn't think I deserved help.

One of Maya Angelou’s essay’s from her book “Letters to my Daughter” has always stuck in my head. It was about accepting gifts graciously and that it was actually a gift for the giver as well as the recipient. People want to help, they want the opportunity to be of service. They just don’t know how. I had to remember that their giving wasn’t just helping me but it was helping both of us. Some of the most joyous moments in my life where when I was giving to someone else without expectation and wanting nothing in return. The only desire being to genuine help and connect. 

So I went on Facebook to put the “Social Network” to the test and posted a funny -still had to add a little self-defense to pad any rejection- but real inquiry for volunteer chemo buddies.

 

Within an hour all of the February and most of March’s appointments were filled and I had a huge back up list ready for April’s appointments.


The lesson here was that my fear of being vulnerable was what was really isolating me. I am not alone and neither are you. Ask for help, you might be surprised by who shows up.