Surprise! I am bald!
So, a few things have been going on around here some of you know and many of you don’t. I now look like a badass with my Misfits sweater and combat boots. Curious about why I have no hair now? Keep reading let me share a little story with you.
In January of 2019, I had BIG plans for my year. I was enjoying nurturing my business therapy client roster, I was planning a trip to the South of France with two women I love dearly. We were going to attend leadership training and were going to take cooking classes in the home of Julia Child it was so exciting!
I had just been accepted into a small group of people who would be training with the NY Times Best Selling author, researcher, professor, and speaker Brené Brown and I was on the biggest high.
The first 6 months of the year were amazing! I did indeed go to France and it was the trip of a lifetime and learned so much about myself despite some real disappointments. I did indeed train with Brené Brown in June and went back for another training in July. I was feeling like my time had come and felt unstoppable. I was so excited about how my research on trauma and entrepreneurship lined up with Brene’s work.
Here’s the thing about a year. A lot can happen. My friend Patrice Dunckley says, “Man plans and God laughs” I have to chuckle at this as well because I had no idea what the second half of my year was going to reveal to me.
When I returned in June from training with Brene’ Brown I had my diagnostic mammogram. I was getting them every 6 months due to some calcifications that they were watching. I remember making the appointment for the screening and I told myself, “I’ll do it when I get back from my training just in case there is bad news” It is like I knew.
I got my 3D mammogram, and this time they did not say, “can we get a few more pictures?”, this time they came back in and said, “get dressed the Dr. would like to talk with you.” My heart sank. I sat down and he said, “The areas we have been following are fine but we found something new and I don’t like it” He recommended I have a biopsy which I had the following day. The biopsy went well, and it was a Friday so I decided that Jason and I were not going to worry about the results, I wanted to have some time to enjoy my weekend without a diagnosis. Because honestly, I knew it was coming.
Jason and I went in on July 2nd and we heard the words that I knew were coming and that changed our lives forever. I won’t go into the details of that day, or how the nurse who told us I had breast cancer was awful. I will share more about that later, I will simply say this, there are two ways to look at something like a breast cancer diagnosis. You can see it as a problem, a challenge and as something that creates a victim. Or you can stay open to what it might teach you, and refuse to look at it the way that we have been conditioned to do so.
That is what Jason and I decided, that this was going to be an inconvenience and nothing more and that we would not let it have any more attention than was absolutely required.
I have been writing about my experiences on this journey to health and doing some videos since our lives changed. At some point, I will be sharing them or sharing parts of them. For now, this post is really tasked with letting you know where I have been and what has been going on.
You see one of my values is authenticity and not sharing this information has been hard for me. However, another value of mine is consent and I knew that I needed to work through so much and create a container and boundaries around this before I could share it openly. The younger version of me that has trauma really needed the wise older version of me, to allow for safety and consent around this big change in my life.
I will give a few timeline details to help you catch up to where I am now but I don’t want to dwell on the details. So here goes. Diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma triple positive. Margins around lumpectomy were clear, lymph nodes that were removed and biopsied also clear. The treatment plan at the time this post was written is, 12 sessions of taxol( chemo) and Herceptin infusions via porta cath( I have completed 11 of them so far). Radiation will follow and then some kind of estrogen-blocking therapy.
In full transparency as I was writing this information out in more detail, I started to feel uncomfortable so I pulled back. What has been true in this journey is that people have not always acted appropriately with me and with my diagnosis even with very clear boundaries. So let’s set those now.
These are just a few. I will have a more comprehensive list later.
1. Telling me about your friend who had breast cancer and was just fine, not ok. What I know to be true about a breast cancer diagnosis is that no two are alike and while I am glad your friend was ok, it really does not mean much for my own diagnosis. This is also a way that we dismiss discomfort and shut people down.
2. Telling me about your friend who had breast cancer and died also not ok.
3. Telling me about how you think I am doing the wrong thing by getting the treatment I am. Really not ok.
4. Telling me about your wholistic approach to kicking cancer’s ass, also not appropriate unless you ask me first if I want to hear about it.
5. Feeling sorry for me, not ok because I am not sick. I was diagnosed with cancer and it is no longer here.
6. Sharing your panic about your own health with me also not ok.
I honestly could add to this list for hours, but I won’t.
Here are some quick things you can do:
1. Send me a message and tell me that you are thinking about me and excited about what comes next.
2. Ask me if it is a good day or a hard day and then ask if I want to talk about it. Please don’t be offended if I say no. I will be grateful you asked.
3. Learn about Brene’ Brown’s work on empathy and what an empathy miss looks like, she is a master teacher on this and I am so glad that I trained with her before this diagnosis. Watch here.
4. Ask me about my plans for 2020 because they are BIG, HUGE and you will want to be a part of them. If you want to stay in the loop about big plans follow me here on my Nicole Lewis-Keeber Coaching Facebook page.
5. Ask my husband how he is doing, because he has been my rock through this and needs support too.
6. This one is a huge one and can be used with just about any situation. Ask me what support looks like for me.
These do’s and don’ts really are not about ME necessarily they are about how to be less careless with people who are dealing with a health diagnosis or any challenge. It is not an attempt at shaming anyone, it is honest feedback.
So back to the topic at hand. I have quite a ways to go to be on the other side of this and I am ok with that. My life has changed in the past 6 months in ways that I would not trade. My life is better. I am better. I am stronger. I am healthier. I am free from the remaining darkness that was smothering my joy. I am more forgiving, loving, healed and I have boundaries for days.
Any challenge can be a teacher. We get to decide what a cancer diagnosis looks like. We have been conditioned to see it as devastating and as a death sentence. I don’t see it that way. The truth is that none of us are guaranteed more than this one moment. I am no closer to death than anyone else right now at this minute. I am lucky because my eyes are wide open to the gifts of my life, and my vision is clear about how I want to change it. I get to define it. Not fight for it because I don’t believe my cancer needed me to fight it. I think it needed me to learn from it.
I will be sharing more lessons over the next year because BOY HOWDY there are lots of them. But for today I feel lighter and stronger because I am no longer hiding truth from you all. You are my community and living out loud with boundaries and with you as my partner is so important to me.
Let me say that this is MY experience with a cancer diagnosis. Your experience and response may vary and that is totally fine.