My 2017 calendar is burning a hole in my desk drawer. With its sea-blue cover and gold lettering, I flip through it and look back at my notes a year ago this week. Work calls, a vet appointment for Taxi, a haircut for Sutton, piano lessons for Emersyn, dinner with Renee.
A year ago I was reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and I began implementing one of Covey’s calendar practices – determine the important roles you lead in your life and the goals that go along with them. Then assign a goal to each of your calendar tasks. For example, one of my roles was to be an individual or “Self” of personal development and a child of God. My goals for this role were self-love and care, communing with God, exercise and eating well. The to-dos on my calendar associated with these roles were book study at Revival 356, yoga and running, therapy, church, and cooking healthy meals. It’s a very cool concept and a way to make sure your daily actions line up with your life goals. I hope to get back to this practice sometime, and maybe even finish the book.
There’s a section on the right side of my 2017 calendar for weekly to-dos. I’d written in March 2017- “OBGYN appointment” and associated it with the role of “Self” with the goals of growing, expanding, self-love and self-care. Flip through a couple of weeks, and I don’t see an OBGYN appointment, and it falls off the column of things to do on the right. The passing weeks include tons of activities for the kids, a dermatologist appointment, meetings with my therapist, Spring break, a visit from my friend Amy and her kids, a visit from our friend Jamie. Work meetings and calls, a field trip, lunch and run dates, and more roles- Self, Spouse, Parent, Friend/Daughter/Sister, PR Consultant, Household Co-Leader. The week of May 1 the OBGYN appointment shows up again in the weekly to-dos.
I remember all of this. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first found the lump in my breast – must have been January or February and we were watching TV, not sure what. The small marble struck me as odd, and I made a mental note to revisit it but promised myself not worry about it. Things were so busy. I had shit to do. I had roles and goals and action items. But I would see if it was still there in a couple of weeks. Or months.
It was May 10 when I finally got myself to the OBGYN. “Oh that?” the doctor said as she examined me in the area of concern. “I’m not worried about that, but let’s schedule a diagnostic mammogram to put your mind at ease since your due for a mammogram anyway.”
Flip the calendar’s page- fifth-grade dodgeball on May 15, book club May 16, diagnostic mammogram on May 17, Sutton’s fifth-grade field trip to Atlanta on May 18. Needle biopsy on May 19. Turn the page, Girl Scouts on May 22, book study on May 23, Emersyn’s end-of-the-year party on May 24- notes to bring bandanas and help with race at the party at 9:45 AM; also Mom arrives for Sutton’s 5th-grade graduation and Connor’s high school graduation. Also on May 24: diagnosed with breast cancer. May 25: Connor’s high school graduation. May 26: Sutton’s 5th-grade graduation. Pool party – bring potato salad and something to grill. No roles and goals listed this week.
What is this pang in my heart as I come full circle to the events of last year and approach the one year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer? What significance lies in the reliving of it? I wasn’t really sure before writing this, but now I think I know. It’s the fact that I was going about my busy, beautiful life and a grenade went off in the middle of it (again). It’s the fact that I put off getting this lump checked out for months but ultimately dared to bring it to the attention of my OBGYN, who would not have noticed it otherwise. It’s that I feared death in those early weeks and eventually got to a place where I knew in my innermost being that it would be OK if I died, that there is enough Love in this world to sustain my children without me. It’s that early detection matters. It’s that I’m sitting here, nearing a year later, feeling pretty good and with a new pair of adopted boobs. And my chest wrinkles are gone because there’s nothing weighing that skin down anymore.
So here’s my message: pay attention. Pay attention to your body and pay attention to your instincts. Speak up when you have an inclination, when something gnaws at you, when there’s an inner knowing that you can’t quite name. Put self-care and self-love at the top of your to-do list no matter how “busy” you are. Know that mammograms, clinical exams and monthly breast exams are of equal importance. Know your Self and know yourself. Enjoy every day and love your people as hard and true as you possibly can.
Five percent of Iron Skillet Media’s March 2018 profits will go to a patient of Pink Ink Tattoo who needs help meeting the cost of areola tattooing, an optional part of breast reconstruction that is not covered by health insurance.