This portrait is an effort to capture the impact of breast cancer on my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer just one year ago, at age 41. Getting that diagnosis was one of those completely unexpected, out-of-the-blue experiences. Yes, I had found the lump (small) myself, but I truly didn't expect it to be cancer. Most of the lumps I have found on women in my work as a midwife turned out to be benign, so why not mine?
We don't always get to choose what we get. Sometimes things are simply dumped in our lap and we have to decide where to go from there. And here I am, on the other side now. Cancer-free. From time to time I feel that the cancer must still be lurking around somewhere, but I don't let that thought go very far. Most of the time I am just thankful to be here, to be here for my family, and to be here to see what more there is for me in this life.
The cancer was in my right breast. I had to have a mastectomy to remove the extensive tumor (that small lump I found turned out to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg). I chose to have a reconstructive procedure and now have an implant. I am glad I decided to do this, because I can wear clothes comfortably and I feel "even." I do have scars, across my chest, and under my arm. The scar you can see in the photo, peeking out from under my arm, is where lymph nodes were removed to see if the cancer was invasive. Fortunately, it had not spread.
In the photo, I am wearing a bathing suit. I don't want to hide myself away just because my body has changed. Yet, I am not looking at the camera. I definitely have moments in which I am disappointed life brought the cancer to me, and I want to look away from the suffering. Ultimately, the way I am gently resting my hand on my chest reveals the true outcome of my experience. I find that I am easier on myself and others, and that I love myself and others much more deeply.