May 7th of this year marked my 2-year anniversary of being cancer-free. For those just joining the story, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) in June 2014, just a few weeks after my 30th birthday. By the time my bilateral mastectomy took place-July 2014- I was upgraded to stage 2. Yeah, it was pretty aggressive. 2014’s birthday brought the worst news of my life. 2015’s, however, brought the best. I was declared to be in remission just 2 days after my 31st birthday.
So here we are now, in 2017, reflecting on the 2nd year of survival and recovery. I say recovery as well because you never fully recover. Every day is a challenge to find what routines and exercises and medication and food work with your new body. Those lists are a revolving door. As soon as you get acclimated to one pattern, it changes on you. Y’all remember how much I LOVED cheesecake? I spent at least a Michael Kors handbag at Cheesecake Factory in 2015 alone (hyperbole…I can’t afford a Michael Kors bag lol). Now? I had one slice on my trip to Austin last month and I struggled through it. Granted, the Oreo Dream cheesecake there has at least a kilo of sugar in each slice so it’s not a reach to say it’s too sweet now. But I used to indulge in that amount of sugar. Now I just want a piece of fruit (blessing in disguise?).
2017 has been rough. I was forced to leave Austin (we won’t talk about it). Port Arthur got slammed for days by Hurricane Harvey. My dear aunt passed away. And the stress of it all has made me ill. But I’m here and still moving forward, which is enough for me. Now I must ask myself a question I’ve been trying to avoid- what do you want, Ashely?
I finally filed the paperwork to make Fenomenal Flashe Empire an LLC. Kicked off a beauty works brand honoring my mom in the process. It’s progress, But there are some steps in life I have had the time and opportunity to handle, but haven’t. I admitted this to my big cousin yesterday. Like applying to have my student loans completely forgiven. There is a program for cancer survivors. I found out about it in 2016. It is almost 2018. Haven’t even changed the ink in my printer to print it out, Don’t remember where I put the link to the website. How? Why?
I’m scared. Cancer ended the life I knew. I had to learn a whole new way to live. It is perpetual survival mode. This is what I am acclimated to at this point.I’m flourishing, but it is in survival mode. There is a new place over the horizon. I can see it. I just don’t want to go over there. I am used to my pain now. I am used to suffering. It isn’t comfortable and it frequently frustrates me, but it is familiar. Everything suddenly became unfamiliar when the doctor told me I had cancer. Now it is familiar again. Painful, but familiar. If I fill out that form, if I finish those personal tasks, I venture into unknown territory. Which is ok, but so soon?
I haven’t completely been a coward. I started a cooking show with my godchildren, Bayou Cookin’ in a Flashe. Cooking is something I adore. It is calming and therapeutic, just like when I read or paint. A few weeks ago, I had some issues with my joints so I couldn’t cook live, but I was able to do a step-by-step so people could cook for Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the interaction a great deal… mostly. There were 2 people who came on the thread and haggled me. They did the typical too- haggled me about my weight. It’s typical and I thought I was ok. But I haven’t wanted to be on since. I’ve had valid reasons for having to cancel the show the last few weeks (sick, uncle was in hospital. etc.), but I can’t say I wasn’t relieved. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for people to tell me once again that I am not talented nor worthy of kindness because I am fat. I’m just not.
So 2018… what do I want? What do you want, Ashely? I want to remember, at every turn, that I’ve defeated the hardest battle of my life- breast cancer. It doesn’t get worse than that. No troll in the world can say or do anything that trumps that. If I can manage to remember that, I can manage to do those things that will take me to the next level. Albeit unfamiliar and scary, I’ll die a monotonous death if I don’t move.
What do I want? I want to not be afraid to move on.
Just. Move. On.