A serious diagnosis is life-altering in a way no one can adequately put into words. First, there is the shock that overcomes you entirely. When that wears off, attack mode kicks in. Sometime after that short-lived euphoric-esque feeling, the feeling of helplessness arrives as the treatment plan begins. It’s the helplessness that pushed me into wanting to do something – anything – to mask that feeling.
I turned to advocacy even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
If I Don’t Think About It, Is It Really Happening?
I lent my voice to a chorus of others who understood this cluster of feelings. Having the same diagnosis, there is a kinship with folks in a similar situation who have the same outrage. It felt good to belong to something after having my career and life as I knew it ripped away. I attended conferences to gain as much knowledge as I could and jumped into any opportunity that filled that gaping hole in my life.
Immersing myself in advocacy made living with MBC more palatable (if that’s possible). I was doing something that had to do with cancer almost every day but wasn’t focused on ME and cancer. There was always something else to concentrate on for or with other people.
I was traveling more than I ever had before – for an event or a conference. or a campaign. I still had medical appointments, scans, and tests, but I ate, breathed, and slept advocacy. It became who I was, not what I did.
Who Am I and Where Did I Go?
About four or five years after diving into the advocacy ocean, some people recognized me as my blog name or as the co-founder of The Underbelly. I wasn’t Susan anymore. I’m pretty sure I even called myself ‘Stickit2Stage4’ a few times when I introduced myself to others. Before I knew it, I was almost nine years into advocacy and all things MBC.
The 2020 lockdown was a major turning point. All in-person events stopped.
I began to realize that I had lost sight of who I was at my core. The lines between what I was doing and who I was were extremely blurred. I had allowed cancer and MBC to take over who I was – it became my identity and a crutch. If I wasn’t doing something having to do with advocacy, I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Getting To Know Me Again
But that’s not who I REALLY am. I am a Mom, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister, an Aunt, and a Grandmother. I love to bake, watch movies, and binge-watch my favorite shows. Now, I am doing those things again and even discovered digital arts, teaching myself how to use different apps. Digital arts and creating is my new favorite alone-time activity.
The traveling I do now is for pleasure. Visiting family and friends. Even going on a day trip because there is nothing going on on a random Tuesday. Spending time with my granddaughter is a joy I never knew existed.
Some of the experiences that had been afforded to me were quite memorable. Others I could have done without; regardless, I’m very grateful for meeting countless people who befriended, accepted, taught, and even argued with me over the years. I am a better person for all of it.
Advocacy will always have a place in my life, however, now I know there needs to be a healthy balance.