This is what breast cancer looks like

20150621_093645As we go past the longest day of the year and supposedly head into Summer for real I thought that I’d take a moment to show you what breast cancer really looks like, in fact what I still look like ( Don’t be alarmed, I’m not posting images of my scars and post surgery nasties).

I’m conscious that there aren’t many pictures of me on the blog. I’m not a great one for pouting selfies and I don’t need to prove to you that I’ve been somewhere because you can see me posing in front of a latte or some other location. Don’t get me wrong, I often like seeing other peoples interesting selfies and the occasional funny face, but I’m not a subscriber to Selfie Stick Monthly. Actually it really saddens me whenever you see a picture of a young person these days as they all appear to be pulling the same face; has peer pressure really gone that far? Where are the individuals…………………….

Scrolling through some information over the weekend it really struck me that the majority of images that you see related to cancer of any type are sadly just as stereotypical as those pouting selfies. Generally they are of very poorly people, often heading through their chemotherapy cycles and showing the physical side effects of that powerful medicine, balding, bearing tubes and intravenous drips and such like. I’m not saying that’s bad at all, it’s their reality and may well have been mine if my tumour had been more aggressive. Images like that show you how hard it is to feel that unwell, cope with that medication regime and help people make decisions about fund raising. My heart goes out to them.

However, I found myself thinking that it’s all fairly one-dimensional. It doesn’t show the vast number of people who are also currently being treated for a cancer diagnosis or following surgery who aren’t (thankfully) in that bracket but who nonetheless are either going through or waiting for their treatment to continue until they can get an all clear diagnosis. We may not share the same physical similarities, but there’s some of the same thought processes, worries and concerns going on inside and for our families.

So here’s me doing my bit to redress the balance. Hello again. I haven’t grown another head. I can still do things. I’m still capable, willing and able. I can still smile and look healthy and happy at least, even if things aren’t quite right. I don’t bite. I remain happy to talk to you on the phone, email, WhatsApp, Facebook as before, I’m not changed and yet I have of course. I can work. I can rest and I can play. You can look like this and still be battling/fighting/suffering a regular person. Remember too, that you can look like this or like you and still not know what’s going on inside your body so do not make any type of excuse for missing screening appointments or checking out if something’s not right.

Perhaps it’s exactly because I (think anyway) that I don’t look any different that I expect people to treat me as they always have done; perhaps if I’m truly honest I’d like them to be even more thoughtful and genuine and not use my situation to solve issues for themselves but I realise that’s my agenda and not theirs, why should it be? And yet things haven’t just changed for me, they’ve changed for others too. I keep hearing a new phrase in the media regarding people who have been hurt in accidents, they say they have ‘life changing injuries’. Where the phrase ‘life threatening’ used to mean something significant, life changing has now taken over as a more long term prognosis that is weighted in the negative. Life changing. It’s sobering to consider.

Do you remember me talking in a post last week about being a mood swinger (https://cystaract.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/be-a-swapper-not-a-mood-swinger/) and crying? Tears have featured in some ways over the last few days. I had a beautiful email from a dear friend sharing her experiences relating to strong emotions and feelings. It was so beautiful that I cried when I read it because she’d captured her experiences and their relevance to me so perfectly and I’m glad that she’s by my side on this journey.

Also, like most people I receive hundreds of emails that get discarded immediately and very few that hold my attention always. One such email is the daily update from Dr Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist and acclaimed leadership expert. He draws on his experience in business and his background as a clinical and consulting psychologist to share practical and effective advice for improving leadership skills, personal relationships and business performance. This week he talked about tears and it’s worth sharing further. So grab your Kleenex and read:

tears researchI found these pictures fascinating and wanted to share them with you guys, thinking you might as well! Our different tears having very different molecular structure! But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense as our tears have very different functions depending on the kind of emotion they are carrying. In these pictures, we see grief, change, onions and laughing. 

One thing they have in common: they all carry experience. 

They come as you express how you are metabolizing events in your life, heart, mind and soul. So, each one of them is doing its own work, carrying the message of what you have been and are going through to move forward.

 So what is the work these tears carry in their various molecular structures? 

Why are they all different?

Grief says that you have lost something you were attached to, invested in, depended on, and most probably loved. In the tears of grief, the message is “it is gone. I have to let go.” These tears are doing an important work of taking the pain from letting go out of your system. They are helping you value what or whom you have lost….reinforcing the power of love, reminding you to never forget the importance of that person or investment of your heat. At the same time, they are making space for new investment. They are clearing a room inside for what life is going to bring to you to invest your heart in next. This dance of valuing the past, holding on to what is good from it, and taking it forward into the next investment of the heart, making room for the heart’s next chapter, is some of the best work of grief. Where do you need to express some loss and let grief do its work of healing your heart?

Change is a different kind of pain. It rips in a different way, as change gets to patterns and structures that were holding us intact. Ways that we were doing life, maps we negotiated whether in life for ourselves, with others, or in some area of functioning. Changes means that we have to take in new data, information and ways, rip out the frame and walls of the old “buildings,” and begin to try to remodel the house. If you have every been through a remodelling effort, it is messy. It is dusty. It becomes loud, painful, and you feel like you can’t figure out where anything goes or how to do anything you used to be able to do. At the same time, it stretches you to new abilities and heights as you develop new muscles and ways to adapt to what you have not seen before. It can be incredibly good, yet incredibly painful. A basic law of growth is change. We cannot grow without it, and we cannot change and grow without “growing pains.” What pain of change do you need to lean into now and let the tears do their work?

Onion tears to me are the tears of something invading our system that does not belong there. It is toxic. We reject it. Our chemistry says “go away, get out. You do not make me feel good.” We are wired in that way, to know what is toxic to us, what burns us, what we want to “get out of us.” It can be the poison of a person, group, organization or almost any aspect of life. Any experience that has a toxic effect on our system is going to feel not good to us. We want it away….it burns. These tears help us get the toxic out. What toxins in your life do you need to cry out now?

Laughing tears are our favourite, for sure. What is laughter except the expression of various positive emotional states….it is mainly  just goodness! You have taken in an experience or realization that has made life lighter. Your body is expressing it as it releases the energy of that joy, and your tears carry that message. An interesting titbit about is that they release some chemicals that can cause depression, and lighten the internal load. Laughter is certainly good at that, and the energy release is your body letting go. Your tears are good for you….emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and in making life work. Embrace them.

One more thing……have you ever wondered why your tear ducts are in your eyes? Why aren’t they in your armpits? If they were there you could use some anti-tear deodorant, no one would see them, smell them, or even know you were in pain. But, they are in your eyes for that very reason. Your pain, your tears should be SEEN by someone who is looking right into your soul as you go through that pain. Your pain needs to be seen and loved in order to completely heal. 

So, when you cry….make sure you are crying with someone who cares. It will help!

By my reckoning I’ve ticked the Tears of Change and Onion boxes off these past few days and look forward to having some Laughing tears soon.

Please don’t expect an update regarding Radiotherapy, that’s filed under my addition to Dr Cloud’s research and I’m going to call them Tears of Liquid Anger.

 “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.”

Kurt Vonnegut

#TeamPositive will return soon. I promise. I know I need to read my previous post and gain some sense of perspective.

Yours #TeamTemporarilyLifeOnHold

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5 thoughts on “This is what breast cancer looks like

  1. Love this. Had onion tears this week as hurt myself!! Once again amazing lady hit the nail square on the head! Love tit knitter xx

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