3 – 3 – 2016 Hey, Cat, check this out!
Happy triple negative breast cancer day!!! Who knew?!
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Exactly. Who knew? Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day?!
It was news to me and my friend, Char, both of us recent TNBC survivors.
I clicked on the link that took me to the Robin Roberts GMA segment with Dr. Kristi Funk, where she announced that Pink Lotus Breast Center in conjunction with Cynvenio were embarking on a clinical research study monitoring women with previously treated non-metastatic TNBC and non-metastatic breast cancers with a confirmed BRCA mutation.
That was us!!
I immediately sent an email to Pink Lotus inquiring how to be screened to get onto the study. I was only a few years out from my diagnosis and completely related to what Dr. Funk said about the additional anxiety of having to sit back hoping and waiting that there isn’t a recurrence.
My mom died of breast cancer. She was HER2-negative. Her sister beat ER-positive breast cancer, but now is battling ovarian cancer. Oddly none of us are BRCA1 or BRCA2. Regardless, my fear of recurrence is palpable. And I believe coming from such a strong hereditary line of cancer it’s paramount for me to participate in studies that can help advance the treatment and cure for cancers.
I was pre-screened by Pink Lotus and then by Cynvenio, shortly thereafter I was accepted into the study. It’s a commitment to participate in this clinical trial for the next few years but my oncologist and I both feel good about having the extra screenings this study provides along with her vigilant eye looking out for me.
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I’ve been a mindfulness practitioner for years. Having this practice in place well before being diagnosed helped me tremendously going through cancer and now into my recovery. I understood the wisdom of surrendering to the reality of my illness, and the willingness to adhere to the arduous treatment protocol required to reclaim my life. Being mindful created more space within myself to cultivate attributes that became my best coping tools: curiosity, equanimity, and compassion. I wanted to be fully with this experience, not take having cancer personal, and love myself fiercely through it. There’s been a lot of unknowns to sit with but staying steady, even in the darkest moments, has brought me to a much brighter place.
One of my favorite symbols in Buddhism is the lotus flower. Its rooted in muddy water but the bud rises from that dark place and blossoms into the light. It’s fabled the Buddha left a trail of lotus flowers with every step he took. He taught that all of us can be Buddha’s; the most basic explanation of the word Buddha means to be awake. But part of becoming awaken is understanding that all things in life belong, even the most difficult things like having cancer. That’s a hard one to swallow but over time I’ve seen how wise this kind of acceptance is. As the sage Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn says, “No Mud, No Lotus”.
I’ve heard many people say cancer is a gift. I don’t think cancer is a gift, but the opportunity it presented to fully wake up to my own life has proven to be invaluable. Today I can see how many other gifts this experience has given me. Many new friendships, a better sense of myself, and a renewed appreciation for life. Now I live more courageously, love more deeply and never take one day for granted. I truly get all this goodness wouldn’t be flourishing in my life unless I had gone through cancer.
~ Cat Gwynn