“How are you doing?” It’s a question we ask and get asked constantly. “I’m fine.” is a typical answer, at least for me. Saying I’m “fine” is just so much easier than actually divulging how I’m really feeling.
“I’m fine,” makes it easier to move on with the conversation and really, it’s such a standard answer that most people don’t really think about it or acknowledge it…they just accept it and move on. I know I was guilty of doing the exact same thing! Many of us have learned to hide our feelings so as not to draw too much attention to ourselves. No one wants to appear vulnerable, but I’ve learned there is strength in vulnerability.
Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, having undergone seven surgeries and countless tests and treatments, I have had some pretty shitty days. There have been times that just getting out of bed was a hurdle. Those days are not gone. I still struggle. I am still in constant pain and I still suffer from anxiety and fear. That said, I have had to push on and try to move forward with my life.
In the last few weeks I have had the privilege to speak at some industry events. They of course have all been virtual so I have been “live” on camera. Now ladies, and yes a few of you men…you know what’s it like to worry about how you look. Is what you are wearing, albeit from the waist up, flattering? Are you having a good hair day? Are your earrings too big? Is that the right shade of lipstick for your complexion? You know the drill. I have to admit that getting ready for these events has caused me a lot of stress. My wardrobe has consisted of jammies and sweats for a long time. Makeup hasn’t even been on my radar and my hair…well I was usually happy if it got washed! I have avoided looking at myself in the mirror as much as possible. Yes, of course when I’m brushing my teeth I have to ensure that I don’t have toothpaste left on my face, but “really” looking at myself is still very hard. Physically, I have changed. A double mastectomy will do that to you. I don’t “feel” like me anymore… and I know that I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. Truth be told, I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep since being diagnosed with cancer. But what can you do? It is what it is, so you put on your big girl panties and push on. I know how blessed I am. I have seen and met so many people during this journey, that cancer has destroyed. So I thank my lucky stars that I may be beaten up and scarred but I am still here!
Having had the opportunity to participate this month in a virtual Business Recovery Summit; to speak to others; to focus on my marketing experience/expertise, has shown me that I still have something …even a lot, to offer. I’ve had my own successful business for 23 years… I’ve only been dealing with cancer for 2…so I still have something to give. And, because I had something to focus on, something to share and something to push me out of my cancer cocoon and into the spotlight, I was able to feel a bit more like the woman I was “before”.
In this time of Covid-19, we are all ( or should be) wearing masks. The masks are for our protection and the protection of others. The masks however hide most of our face. They hide our expressions and they make it difficult to see what others really look like.
Many of us who are suffering from pain, stress and anxiety have been wearing a different type of mask. It’s a mask that we “put on” to hide what we are feeling. It’s a mask that hides our pain and our anxiety. It’s a mask that protects us from sharing what we are going through. It’s a mask that protects us from being vulnerable and hurt even more.
The one good thing that I have seen due to Covid-19 is that most of us are more in tune with our feelings. We are talking about the pandemic and how it has affected us physically, mentally and emotionally. We are reaching out to each other and “checking in” more. We are seeking out “connection”; something that will help us get through the fear and isolation we are all experiencing. We now seem more understanding of each others feelings and we are far more accepting. That is something very positive for sure.
I encourage everyone to wear a mask until this pandemic is behind us. It is the right thing to do. Wearing a mask is for the protection of others…your friends, family, the elderly and people like me who are immune compromised due to cancer. I also ask, that the next time you ask someone how they are…make sure that when they say “fine” that they actually are. Take the time to really connect. Take the time to really listen and to process what they are saying. They may be wearing a different kind of mask …but a mask they feel they still need for their protection.
We are all connected in life. We all have more in common than you might think and we all need each other. Reach out to one another. Listen to each other. Support one another.
Stay strong. This too shall pass.
#covid19 #cancer #wearamask #breastcancer #survivor #mentalhealth #weareinthistogether
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.