Two years ago. August 31, 2015. Hilton Downtown Omaha. Me. In a black dress. Holding onto some of my people.
I’d had my first mammogram in that dress. At 33 years old. And I’d told some of them about it before a reception for some very special people. And I’d broken down. And continued to break down. Over and over. The whole night. The whole weekend. The whole next three weeks.
Because it was the C word. And it was in me. I had held onto them before. But I held them even tighter that night. And throughout the next several months. They were part of the pack that carried me. That loved on us. That prayed for us. That did every single thing they knew how to do for us. And even more than that, it seemed.
I was alone in my diagnosis. I was the only one actually living the cancer. I was the only one actually enduring the treatment. I was the only one who actually questioned my mortality. But they were my people. My tribe. The village it took to fight my cancer. And to hold me up when I felt like crumbling to the earth. On days when I wanted to give up. When I felt fed up. When I couldn’t look up. There was an entire army that took my hand, that listened, that offered whatever they could… so I could thrive.
That isn’t lost on me. I’m all too aware that not everyone has such a crew. Not everyone has the support of so many. Not everyone gets such a big dose of goodness. And why I did… why I still do… I still don’t know. But I know that it is something to be insanely grateful for.
And my husband. My Adam. He was more than I ever could have been had our roles been reversed. He never complained. He never stopped. He was the co-survivor. He was the one who, I sometimes say had it worse. And I couldn’t even support him back. But he held me up. From before the day of the black dress and all the way through my fight. Treatment and hair loss and hospital stays and complications and so many other side effects. He’s loved me, patiently, through every bit of it.
I don’t know for certain and I don’t ever want to find out, but I really don’t know that I could have done it without all of them. Or perhaps I could have… but it wouldn’t have been such a messy beautiful life-changing time. Without the arms of the village, wrapped around my waist, holding me up.
One year ago. August 26, 2016. Hilton Downtown Omaha. Me. In the same black dress. Holding onto some of my people.
And I cried and cried and cried. It had all come full circle. There I was, one year later. In the dress. In the place. Short hair. Tissue Expanders. Port still in, but treatment complete. I was happy to be done. But I was unsettled remembering how it had all begun. And I watched as other survivors shared their battles. I watched how others talked of getting through and being healed. In so many ways beyond the physical sense.
And I knew that my people there with me. And all the others that had been with me over the last year. Over the last five years. Over my life. Those people had all been given to me. At one time. Or another. Those people had signed on to be my village. Long before the C word ever even came on the scene. I knew that in the thriver and survivor world, not everyone had that in their lives. And I was so thankful. So grateful for these people who had chosen to stick with us and walk through our weeds. These people who I love something fierce. These people who held me up.
Present day. August 18, 2017. Hilton Downtown Omaha.
And then, I wore white.
White because for me, I can now see the light. Daily I feel joy. Daily I feel comfort. Daily I feel healthy. Daily I feel somehow anew.
And daily, I feel held up. Still. By the same people who jumped on our ship throughout my years on this life. I’ve been held up through babies. Through loss. Through illness. Through joys. Through sorrows. And through becoming the woman I am right now. All these gorgeous souls have decided to tie their horse to this wagon — a woman who is often wobbly and every which where — these people have carried me. And also, in some odd way, let me carry them with me.
This village. All of us — or at least some mix of faces — always seem to be there with me, year over year. And the ones who aren’t always in that same place, I still feel them with me, as I get to thrive. And I know that they — family. friends. other survivors — they are so much of the reason why I get to know this joy. Why I get to be me.
I still have the black dress. I do. But it was not for this memory this year. Because I am in the light. In the place of a peace about all that has happened in my journey. I am in a place where I am not just figuring out how to live, but as they say in the Project Pink’d community, I am figuring out what it looks like to live my best life. And hopefully, my longest life.
And so, I wore white. A fresh start. A newish beginning in some regard but yet a continuation of something that has already been pretty amazing. And something that will continue to refresh, over and over again.
And my people watched and smiled as I stood on my own. And I smiled right back. Knowing that even if they aren’t right next to me, they are all still by my side. And to all of them I say with so much gratitude and love and light, “right back atcha.”