Strength; perseverance – 2 of our tenets in taekwondo. I know what the words mean and I know people who have these traits, but I never thought those words would apply to me. I have been told I am an inspiration to people and their hero. I am a survivor, although to me, to survive only means to sustain life. But to be strong and persevere…that’s what I want to do. I have faced cancer twice in my life and I have won, not without my share of difficult moments, but I am still standing. They say that if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. Again, I’ve never thought of myself as anything or anyone but just “me”. Until today.
I was entering my daily taekwondo activities in my journal and wanted to see the number of classes I have taken in the past cycle and the current cycle (each cycle is 2 months long and there are 6 cycles each year). So I tallied my totals and took a look back at the number of classes I had each cycle for the past year. I was amazed at the number of classes I was able to attend despite the fact that I had life- and body-altering surgeries since November of last year and spent several weeks to months at a time unable to attend class because I was healing and recuperating. My totals went something like this: During the 2 months I had the initial screenings, diagnosis, and surgical biopsy I had 26 classes. During the cycle I had the mastectomy I managed to get in 7 classes. The next cycle: 27 classes. The cycle during which I had the switch from expanders to implants (another major surgery): 14 classes. And the cycle after that: 24 classes.
I was astonished at myself. And this doesn’t enumerate here the countless hours spent teaching classes, working at the academy, special events and attending tournaments – yes tournaments! I competed in 2 tournaments and medaled! You could make the case that I am stubborn, or maybe the surgeries weren’t that difficult, or maybe I’m making the whole thing up. I’d go with stubborn, or more likely, strong. Not strong in body necessarily, but strong in spirit and mind. As my body ached and fear took hold of my very being at what I was facing, somewhere from inside came something much bigger than I. It seems a cliché, but I promise you it is a very real feeling and I doubt that it can be conjured up at a moment’s notice. It has to be tested and tried. I couldn’t let myself sink into a dark abyss never to be seen again. I had to be here for my girls, for my husband, for my friends and family. I was needed and wanted. I was somebody’s hero. I was somebody’s inspiration. I was strong. But I was so busy walking through my valley that I didn’t see that about myself yet. I can now and I am humbled by it because by myself I never would have accomplished what I have.
My journey is far from over. I don’t think that as a breast cancer thriver it will ever be over. I will have daily reminders of my journey. I will not let the reminders keep me down. I will let them serve a purpose, to keep me moving forward with strength, perseverance, and confidence that an everyday woman with many flaws can be somebody’s hero.