The 5th anniversary of my second breast removal came and went in April this year and whilst every year until now it has been an incredibly significant day for me, this year, I completely forgot about it. I was enjoying a relaxing camping holiday with my family; I was living my life. Upon realisation that I’d forgotten, panic set it. I mean, I had made it my 6 monthly promise to remind everyone on those days exactly 6 months apart to check their breasts in honour of mine that were gone, in the hope of saving theirs. But strangely when I got over the initial shock of forgetting, I could quite clearly see that in the last 6 or so months my focus had shifted and much to my surprise, I rather liked it.
Rather than being cranky with myself for forgetting, I felt accepting of the fact that perhaps ‘breast cancer awareness’ wasn’t everything to me anymore. Don’t get me wrong. That’s not to say that I don’t value the importance of reminding people about checking their breasts and want to continue to do that. But instead of making it my life and my focus, I was actually just starting to live my life properly again and on my own terms. Breast cancer awareness is still hugely important and something I feel strongly about, but now sharing that awareness and how it happens will fit in to my life, not the other way around.
If you view this through the ‘stages of grief’ lense, I guess you would say I have finally reached acceptance. I have finally embraced the knowledge that life continues after loss. And while the process is definitely fluid rather than static and at various times I definitely know I won’t feel accepting of my loss at all, on a whole, I think I’m there. Funnily enough, I actually think I probably thought I was ‘there’ for a long while before, when really I actually wasn’t but wanted to be. But that in itself is okay too. I guess that means that I wanted to be there. The strange thing is it’s not actually until you are genuinely there that you fully get it.
While I was going through breast cancer, I never exactly saw my experience as one of grief but looking back on it now from a place of acceptance, I think my experiences and feelings very much align with that of the ‘stages of grief’. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and now acceptance were all things I have felt at varying times over my nearly 6 year journey. For those of you who are not yet there, give yourself time. There is no rule book; no time frame on grief. No journey is the same, nor should your grief feel the same. Only you know what is truly right for your soul.
And when the time is right, acceptance forms the new norm for our life and it is nice to get there. In the last year, I have done things without a focus on my cancer and I have become Gen again. I ran a marathon, had career highs, but most importantly something that has been so significant to me was the true acceptance I felt towards my body image. I’ve always has a positive attitude to being breastless but it hasn’t necessarily been consistent. Now if I go out flat, I don’t care if it’s a bit obvious; I have war wounds and don’t particularly care if they are noticed. What’s important is that I’m happy with myself and I truly feel breastless and beautiful.
One brand I have always wanted to buy something from – but one which never seemed to work for breastless women – is Spell. I would watch their collections come and go desperately wishing that I still had cleavage to be able to wear them. Recently, my eyes lit up when I saw their latest collection featuring a top that was completely perfect for breastless women, the Amethyst Blouse. I mean like absolutely perfect and I am in love!! We don’t actually need everything in a shop to work; we just need to get clever at finding that one item that does!
So here is my beautiful Spell top, perfect for these glorious autumnal days. As today is Mother’s Day, I am present in my feelings of gratitude. Beyond any emotion imaginable, I appreciate today the privilege it is for me to be a mum, to have an amazing mum and mother-in-law who have pathed strong and admirable ways for me and for my incredible family and friends who are mums, giving selflessly every day to their beautiful families. Today, I raise my glass to you….and me!
I am breastless and beautiful.
Have a wonderful week
Love, Gen x