Finish my post-graduate degree
Be on my Eat, Pray, Love journey
Get a mammogram
Get a mammogram? Get. A. Mammogram.
Seems strange right? Not to me. From the age of 11 it was always my reality that when I reached age 30 it was something I had to do. I just remember sitting in a doctor’s room as a pre-teen and being told that since my mother that got diagnosed at 40, that my testing had to start 10 years before.
Fast forward to turning 30, life happened and my ‘get a mammogram’ mantra got pushed in the shadows. Funny story, it was actually on a date recapping anecdotes of my life that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember just feeling fear. Calling various …
I’ve been trying my hardest to write about my experience getting my first mammogram since 2018. Writing it for me…writing it for you…writing it to share…writing it to pass on knowledge…writing it to bring awareness; but after two years I can’t and I’m starting to realise that’s ok.
The reason why? Grief
I think of my mother and I mourn, I think of breast cancer and I mourn; I’ve been mourning for 22 years and I still feel as if I’ve lost a part of myself that I can’t get back. This truth is that’s exactly what it is.
I think of my mother daily but October hits different. Not only is it the anniversary of her death but ironically it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.Now for some people it means the world. Some get to celebrate survivors, for others it’s an opportunity to bring awareness and being honest, I feel like some see it as something to monetize. For me though, it feels like a tunnel that I can’t escape. I’m so hypersensitised that as people talk about those who are brave enough to beat it, I wonder if they ever consider that those who died didn’t lack courage or faith or hope, it just wasn’t to be.
I was introduced to a podcast by Brene Brown featuring Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and completing the Stress Cycle. One of the things they mentioned was that sometimes when you’re going through a stressor, you may think that once the inciting factor is gone then you’re fine…’but have you actually completed the cycle and worked through your stress?’
This podcast came to me in the middle of October and within minutes I realised that this was something I’ve failed to do. I wait until October has passed, wait until I no longer have to see the signs and all the pink, wait until the nightmares stop and then I think I’m ok.Another October survived and I’m still intact. Yay me!
But I never have been, I still feel broken.
I’d say this year has been the worse it has been in a while. I felt my grief in the realest of ways. It felt like my body was cracking, like a deep ache; a heaviness; I cried myself into a panic attack until I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t fake my way out the tunnel this time and just wait for it to pass. I needed help and I couldn’t be too proud to ask for it.
When I think of my losses, I also think of my blessings, and I’m blessed enough to have a friend that I could pick up the phone, not say a word and through my tears she knew that I needed her to pray for me.
That wasn’t the end though. I cried day and night for a week, everyday deeper into a hole of despair.
With my sense of community for everything I turn to the internet to google some very specific things. That particular night was:
‘What do you do when it’s 22 years since the death of a parent and you aren’t coping well’.
I was reading other people’s experiences and one lady described it as feeling as if she’s ‘lost [her] cheerleader and now there’s no one in the stands to clap’. And again part of now trying to cope with grief is realizing that its ok to feel this way and at the same time still be grateful for a dad and extended family who do cheer me on.
But I miss my mum.
I feel jealous sometimes to see other women with their mums and wonder if they know how fortunate they are. I wonder if she would be proud, I wonder what life lessons she would have wanted to pass down, I wonder if I’ve turned out to be everything that she envisioned I would be, and to be honest I wonder about my ability to be a good mother without my own.
People can’t even imagine sometimes how words can water what feels like desolate soil, but every time someone says I look like her or have her character, something deep inside blooms. There’s not a bigger compliment I can imagine for the kindest soul I’ve known.
I’d be lying if I said I listened to the end of the podcast. As useful as the information was, I wasn’t in a full place of readiness and willingness to hear; perhaps I will be by the time I publish this.
The bit I’ve listened to, I’ve tried to put into practice. Instead of hiding from my feelings and emotions, I’m trying to find ways to work through them. I’ve started asking my family more specific questions on her, not only in her youth but what she expressed as her feelings and fears during the time of her diagnosis and treatment, I’ve stopped hiding from pictures and allow myself to look, cry and most importantly feel. I’m not trying to hide from my grief anymore, I’ve already failed to outrun it, but I am trying to get myself from one end to the tunnel to the other.
Me putting this into words is an act of bravery for me. This by far isn’t going to be my most cohesive writing, but it isn’t meant to be. I’m just being vulnerable and trying my best to articulate something that feels almost impossible to.
This is for someone like me who may be searching to believe, who may be up goggling in the middle of the night looking for someone who understands, for someone with that missing piece, for someone missing their cheerleader.
This post offers no advice, no tips or tools, but it’s a word to let you know you know that you are seen and I hope you see me too.
Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday
PS: I’ve posted links below to the podcast I mentioned before in case anyone wants to listen and also an article on grief as published in Psychology Today