Fear is a necessary instinct for survival, but fear can also claim your future if you give it too much power over the present. My biggest fear has always been breast cancer. And I’m now on the other side of something that I have feared for most of my life. This disease took the lives of my great grandmother, my grandmother, and almost killed my mother who had stage 3 breast cancer at my age. Now that I look down at my flat chest (soon to be reconstructed), I feel physically and emotionally transformed. I get to be the first generation in my family to break the cycle of breast cancer.
I woke up from my mastectomy feeling the nurse shaking me. “Andrea, breathe.” she said. Apparently I was so relaxed from the anesthesia that I would exhale and forget to inhale. You could say I was feeling the relief of a lifetime! There are bits and pieces I remember from that day…and from the whole week after being under anesthesia. A few things stood out to me. My husband’s warm hand holding mine. My mother’s voice reassuring me. The nurses at the hospital who were amazing and so helpful! I remember one of my very old friends who wrote the perfect thing to me: I finally slayed my dragon…before my dragon slayed me. I did it. I conquered my biggest fear.
I wasn’t aware how my fear of cancer had seeped into my imagination of the future, and how deeply it affected me. But enough about me. I think even more about the women who will not have the same choices I have to change their destiny. I think about you. What is your biggest fear? There are so many fears that are harder to deal with, and harder to face. This experience has given me a deeper sense of empathy. It is empowering to look fear in the face and defy it, and I felt the need to share it with everyone. I hope that sharing my story can help you face what you fear, what you avoid, and what you deny yourself. Slay your own dragons if you have them, and if you can. You’ll be happy you did.