Lauren Cahn wrote -
SURVIVING BREAST CANCER IS ALL GOOD!!
But then what?
Surviving breast cancer - sounds like a good thing, right? And it is! But take it from me: it comes with its own set of challenges. The HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, based in the Bay Area, helps ALL women, regardless of financial status, to manage and address those challenges.
I'm Lauren Cahn, and (hopefully) you wouldn't know it to look at me, but I am a survivor of breast cancer - for more than 10 years now. There's a beautiful documentary on the Lifetime website that tells my story, and you can watch it here: http://www.mylifetime.com/my-lifetime-commitment/remarkable-women/video/breast-cancer-survivors/survivors-breast-cancer-lauren (please do, especially if you're a yoga fan).
When diagnosed at age 36, I called it "the beast that took my breasts". As much as I resented about breast cancer, there IS one thing that I love about it.
NOT the double mastectomy and the immediate reconstruction with water balloons (or so it seemed). NOT the eight years of re-reconstruction that followed. I
NOT the chemo with its attendant hair-loss (I was cueball-bald after 15 days, and after three month, all my eyelashes and eyebrows were gone too).
NOT the radiation with its attendant exhaustion, skin damage (I had to have a transplant...don't ask), and-who-knows-what other damage.
NOT the Herceptin (targeted biological therapy that lasted 15 months and made me feel like I had the flu the entire time), as life-saving as I think it was.
NOT the Zometa (bone-building infusion that was intended to stave off chemotherapy-related osteoporosis (and I still am kind of bird boned despite that crap being dripped into my veins).
NOT the hit the illness took on my family, my career as a lawyer, my plans for the go-go-go life in New York City....
NOTWITHSTANDING all that, the one thing that I absolutely LOVE about breast cancer is: People DO survive it. Not always. Not everyone. But many many do.
Survival is awesome. It beats the alternative. My children think so, at least. But here's the rub: after the doctors stop checking in on you every few weeks, after your friends stop cooking meals for your kids, after you come to the realization that no one cares anymore when you pull out the "cancer card", what happens then?
What happens when the long-term side effects of cancer treatment start to settle in?
Such long-term effects include arm-swelling, depression, hormonal changes and their inherent annoyances, weight gain, anxiety...I could go on...but I want to shift gears and talk about the positive.
The HERS Breast Cancer Foundation is dedicated to supporting all women healing from breast cancer by providing post-surgical products and services, regardless of financial status. They provide "lymphedema sleeves" and prosthetics to women who can't afford them. They help women to find their way after the spotlight is off them, and they have to blend back into the world, a little more bald, a little more scarred. This is something near and dear to my own heart. After I finished with my treatments, I got myself into a yoga teacher training program with the goal of teaching yoga to women with breast cancer, especially young women like myself. The result was: http://pinklotusyoga.blogspot.com/ (Pink Lotus Yoga).
But I digress.
HBCF is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but this East Coast chickie became aware of them when I began writing a three-part series about "The Boys Who Bike For Breast Cancer", which appeared in the Huffington Post in 2012 and early 2013. These "Boys" were Neil Walsky and Jesse Freschione, who rode their bicycles from Anchorage, Alaska to Central America over a four-month period, for the purpose of raising awareness and funds for HBCF. You can read "The Bicycle Diaries" here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-cahn/breast-cancer_b_2330933.html.
I was in a motel room, hiding out from Hurricane Sandy when the call came in from Karen Jackson of HBCF, asking me to be the keynote speaker at the "People With Purpose" 2013 Awards Luncheon to benefit HBCF. I could not have been more thrilled.
I am raising money for HBCF now, at my own impetus. I feel that HBCF addresses the facet of breast cancer that heretofore never needed addressing: what happens when you don't die? What happens after you don't die, but your living is forever altered?
The better the treatments and diagnostics, the more people will live long lives after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. And HBCF is there for ALL women to help manage the adventures of those long lives, adventures that were caused by having had breast cancer and having been treated for it.
SURVIVING BREAST CANCER is a GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE.
Let's make it even better by supporting the work of HBCF!