I have been out and proud for some time (well, since July) and I am floored by the amount of people on my blog, reading about my breast cancer plot twist and reaching out to me and sharing how my story has helped them with their story. It is humbling, it is awesome and it helps me feel that I am doing some good out of bad. I am big about that - I want to take this crappy thing and make it into something more.
I know the lessons I am learning and the things I am doing about helping those behind me on this never ending (seeming) cancer trian and I also have an idea ofhow I want to move forward but it is still not an ideal situation to have been diagnosed at breast cancer at 39 years old.
During my treatment, when I was bald and tired and just doing all I could to keep putting one foot in front of the other and one sticky note down at a time on my chemo wall I deactivated my Facebook account.
I already was no longer blogging on my business website (I had stopped that in August 2016 when I was hired for a full time teaching gig) and I was not really using Twitter or Instagram (and definitely not Instagram - why would I want to document myself at my “ugliest” - do not worry, I see the beauty in those photos now and have been sharing them so jokes on you Cancer, I do not care anymore!).
Why did I close out Facebook? Truthfully, it was so hard seeing people go about their regular lives. Nothing was “regular” about my life. To be totally honest, my life really has never been about being “regular”, though. I have always been unapologetically ME - weird, an oddball, the person that can make you laugh until you cry but then will kind of shut down and do something awkward that just shows how bad I am at being social and “on” all of the time.
I was very inward focused from about 2005 - I had my marriage and then my children to consume me. I did not look at me anymore as a person - I was just a mom and focused on doing all I could to keep my little family afloat over some very choppy waters in the ship that is not my story to tell.
Watching Facebook posts, which we all know are curated to show the “best” but still just looking at people having regular sh*t to worry about, going about their lives with hair and eyebrows was too painful for me. Also painful was the ShoeBox App on my phone - I could not look at the memories of photos taken on that day in the past because for most of those days I was just trying to survive.
I just recently reactivated Facebook again and for a selfish reason. I want to raise money for my Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and/or go about making people walk with me. It is also to do more about keeping myself social and “out there”. I learned with breast cancer that the people who surprised me the most were not those who walked away but those who went above and beyond, those who stayed by my side and just in being there, made my life more “normal”. Here is to the normalcy - let us all recognize what we have when we have it and appreciate it every day.
Please consider donating to my walk at http://main.acsevents.org/goto/LisaNielsen or even better join up and walk with me, I am around and looking forward to being awkwardly hilarious for many, many years to come…
Everything in life has a before and after. For me, my before was about running at the speed of light and managing every minute detail of the lives of my children and husband and other family members too.
I was a professional - able to perform and present at the drop of the hat on any topic involving corporate America, finding a job, managing college process for kids and their families alike and more. But that's just it - it was the polish, the never-ending process of being "on" of being me but better. As a college professor for over 13 years, my time at the podium was also centered around being the best me as possible - not a hair out of place a little makeup super professional clothes and no missteps or oversharing either in person or on social media ever.
All of that changed for me when on November 28 I got the phone call that changed my life. Before that call though, I had a heads up to expect the worst. When I had my biopsy the day after Thanksgving, which was a day ten years before I had found out I was pregnant with my daughter, this time the test was not for an extra pink line; it was the surgeon who did the biopsy telling me to expect the call that it was cancer.
My mom was with me at the biopsy and when I told her, she literally scoffed at the idea - "...there's no way, we don't have that in our family, you don't have cancer." My dad, when I told him about it later, was denigrating the age of the surgeon - "...there's no way she could know she made a mistake." My husband said the same but also added in, "...if you had cancer, the dog would have given us a sign."
That's expecting a lot of a dog!
Though I was told in person during the biopsy it really just did not seem real and in fact that weekend was so fun full of holiday fairs and relaxing- though when I stopped at a vendor to get myself and my daughter lockets with floating charms, I saw the pink ribbon and thought I'm going to survive this, I should get the ribbon to show it to everyone but I stopped myself and did not pick the ribbon.
Just a few days later, I got the call. Now it was real. Somehow it wasn't real until the follow up phone call.
The call "confirmed" is and in an instant, I went from managing my first full time job in 8 years after running my own business for 2 and teaching part time for the full 8 to being a cancer patient. I went from being the sole caregiver of my children, my house, my dog, my husband (and others) to now having to do something I had absolutely forgotten how to do - take care for me.
I had no idea how to do this. I had always been a nurturer, someone who cared for others and I even wrote in a previous post that I thought all of that, "Make sure your oxygen mask is on first..." type of crap was just that, crap.
Now I have learned the hard way that I need to take care of me. A big part of taking care of me is in being this new, unpolished, crew cut like hair version of me. I am no longer interested in projecting myself as "successful" or "smart" or #businesspersonextradoinaire - instead I am just "me". Do I have stuff to offer the world - hell yes. Do I care if I seem "perfect" and "put together" anymore - heck no.
There is something so freeing in just being yourself; it is something I thought I was being but I had no clue. I was pushing myself to be the end all and be all at home and in the world of college and career readiness (seriously, check out my website I ran for my business and look to see if you can find "Lisa" the person and not "LISA the BUSINESS PERSON" www.thenextstep1234.com. She is not there; that is not me.
I am the person you see here, someone who was afraid so afraid of everything that I was not living. And now, that I have something to really be afraid of (cancer, stage 3), I am not scared anymore. I am going to live and do things that I would not have done before. I am applying to win a contest to take me and my best friend to Las Vegas through Pandora - hello, that is not something the "old" me would have done. I am going on a girls night out this Sunday for the first time in way too many years to count. And I am lucky because despite the fact that I have forced everyone to only see me on playdates or other weird kid-centric occassions, I have more than 10 women coming out to drink with me as I celebrate the fact that I am done with treatment, have a little hair and can finally wear a bra again!
Live life, fight hard and be your true self anyway you can! This is what I am doing in the time between.
Just some of my girls who will also be out with me this weekend - but my WIG will be at home :)
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