By Jennifer MacKenzie
January 1, 2020 marked three years since I woke up from a night of celebration with friends and found the lump in my left breast. It was one of the best New Year’s Eves in a long time. I turned 35 on December 30 and 2017 was going to be my year! What I didn’t know was it was my year of challenges, fears, broken relationships, growing relationships, and courage.
On February 9, after my family doctor confirmed it was a cancerous lump, my life almost felt like a movie. All I could think was there was no way this was possible. I needed more time. I had plans that didn’t involve fighting for my life. How was this possible? Wake me up from this nightmare! Will I die? Big decisions followed. Everything was scary!
Then the plan of action came into reality: a double mastectomy with reconstruction followed by six rounds of chemo. I had so much support, everyone was concerned and fighting with me. I was never alone, but felt so alone. I wasn’t ready for the reality that I was no longer the same Jenn. This bumpy road had changed me!
Everyone could see the end except me. I couldn’t see my life moving forward or past this. How was I going to move on when all I felt was loss? I lost my breasts, my hair, my independence, my dreams, lifelong friends, family, my social life — we all know how it goes. It just feels like loss after loss; it is not fair!
Cancer changes you and it sucks but cancer also made me love myself! The new Jenn is a softer, kinder, happier me. I’m not sure why it took losing a lot to realize my beauty, worth, goals, and dreams. I no longer sweat the small things, think I’m too fat or not pretty enough, worry what other people think of me, or count how many friends I have. I cherish every moment, memory, and experience. I live for me and it has changed my soul. I love me!
So I guess reflecting on three years since the discovery of that lump has me reflecting on my journey. Trust me, there was a time I thought cancer would be my first thought every day for the rest of my life, but it’s not. It’s exciting, yet scary at the same time.
Since being diagnosed with cancer, I quit a job I hated, travelled to some of the most beautiful places, met the kindest people, and I am truly happy!
Life certainly changes after cancer, but I have chosen this anniversary to mark the beauty and good from my journey and to be thankful for the person I am today, after cancer.
I am brave! I am strong! I am beautiful! I am loved! And, I am living!