Pink Ribbon Reset: A Survivor’s Journey

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It’s October. That means that pink Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons will be popping up along with pumpkins, mums, and Halloween candy sales. You’ve probably heard it a million times: “Perform self-exams. Get your yearly mammogram.” You know these things, and hopefully, you choose to do them. For me, those ribbons have a different meaning now. I am two years past a breast cancer diagnosis; 18 months have passed since I completed chemotherapy; and 17 months have gone by since I had a bilateral mastectomy. Personally, I haven’t been a big fan of the color pink since I was about six years old. Those pink ribbons galled me when I saw them on pizza boxes, car dealership promotions, socks, toothbrush packaging, and everything else. As I received that cancer diagnosis in October, those ribbons felt like a constant reminder of really bad news. I just didn’t like seeing them. Then, something changed.

Have you ever wished that your life could have a reset button? That you could just start over and not have made that mistake or not have experienced that trauma? I think all of us wish for that sometimes. While we can’t erase the past, we can use that reset button for the future. That’s what the pink ribbons remind me of now.

Breast cancer was my reset button.

I had only gone in to the doctor for a mammogram to set a good example for my teenage kids. Going to the doctor is something you’re supposed to do for your health, right? Okay, I guess I’ll do it. I’d been told years before that I didn’t need to get a mammogram until I turned 40. Well, 41 was fast approaching and I hadn’t taken care of that appointment yet, so I needed to get it checked off the to-do list. The technician warned me that because it was a baseline mammogram, it was very likely that I would be receiving a call to come in for a follow-up screening as they didn’t have previous years’ results for a comparison. (The doctors look for change from year to year.) As I was kind of expecting it, I didn’t think much of the call to come back for more pictures. I didn’t even think it was a big deal when they said they wanted to do a biopsy on a suspicious-looking area. So, when I got the call that my doctor wanted me to come in to discuss the biopsy results, only the hypochondriac little voice in my head was saying, “Cancer, cancer,” and I thought that realistically, they might have to remove a cyst or something. But my doctor said that the biopsy showed cancerous cells and *click* … reset.

In my experience, cancer was illuminating. My focus was on taking whatever steps I needed to take to get those cells out of my body. When chemotherapy started, I didn’t have energy for anything extra, so whatever I was doing was the most important thing and I had to let the other stuff go. The relationships that were important in my life went deeper and the love and support from so many people who cared for me carried me through hard times. I asked for what I needed‒be it time, meals, a listening ear, extra sleep, or more hugs‒and my friends and family went above and beyond to meet those needs. This was an ability developed through necessity; it was not something that came naturally for me‒it took me 41 years to learn! I am a person of faith and I believe that God gave me enough for each hour, each day, each week.

For me, it was a forced reset, but I’m choosing to continue to live my life in that mode instead of going back. I try not to become “too busy” to do things that I simply want to do. I try to make sure I am connecting with people and not just floating through my life because I want to remember that it is precious. I try not to take things or people for granted. It would be easy for me to slip into old habits. It’s easy for us to forget once we’re past a difficult situation, isn’t it?

That’s what I wanted to share with you, Be a Rose readers: You don’t have to wait for a catastrophic event to reset your life for you. You can start that reset on your terms. Is something out of balance? What changes can you make to fix that? Do you keep saying, “I should [fill in the blank]”? Do that thing.

Let those pink ribbons be a reminder to you: a reminder to take care of your health, a reminder to take care of your friendships, a reminder to take care of yourself. Reset.

Guest Authored By: Jamie Schwartz

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