There was a killer in my house. I know, its terrifying. I had something enter my temple with out permission, without a warning, trying to kill me. Secretly, slowly with no signs of struggle. I had no idea what it was. I didn't even know it was there until it started to strike. I tried to hide from it, but there was no escape. It was there, in my house, my temple, my being.
When I first heard the word CANCER, it didn’t compute. What?! You gotta be kidding me! I was the healthiest, fittest, happiest that I have ever been in my entire life. I didn’t smoke, drink, or even take tylenol. I exercised 4-5 times a week, I felt good! I looked good! Why wasn’t it all good!? How could this be happening?
I'll never know if I ignored the evidence that this killer was inside of me. I think even when I noticed the signs that something was not quiet right, I ignored it out of fear that it could actually be SOMETHING.
We use any excuse to justify that we are fine. We don’t have time to address a nagging concern, a suspect discomfort, or any strange “fill in the blank here”. But fear is at the root of this. Fear that IT IS something. Something bad. Something scary. Something we don’t want to face.
I was afraid that the lump I felt in my left breast was SOMETHING. That the strange indentation was SOMETHING. “But its probably nothing! You’re so young!” was the consensus among anyone I told about my mammogram appointment.
*When The result came back, the killer was identified as IDC — Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Fuck. Ok, I was strong, fit and I was ready to fight for my life.
Every room, nook and cranny of my temple, my house, my body was flooded with poison. Poison to destroy the killer. To eradicate the murderer that had snuck in with only one intention…to destroy me. Cell by cell, brick by brick the home to my soul would have been demolished, so what choice is there but to fight? Fight for my life. Fight and not be afraid. Fight and stay positive. Fight and win.
Reconstructive surgery. Radiation.
Then the words that you only dreamt of escape your doctors lips “You are cured. No more cancer. You beat this thing. You won.”
I know I should be ecstatic, happy, thankful, but all I felt was … NOTHING. I felt nothing, because for the past year that’s what I trained myself to do. No fear. No tears. No negative emotions, just fight. I didn't know how to go on now, because deep inside I didn't believe them, I didn't believe the doctors.
Its been two years since my initial diagnoses. Slowly my emotions started to come back, like the flowers around the garden after a drought. Little by little, with every passing month of being healthy, one blossom at a time, I was happy again.
I felt joy and gratitude, but…
I was afraid of the ghost the killer left behind. I still feel the presence of the killer in my house. Its ghost is there, even though the murderer has been destroyed. I twitch in fear with every new ache, pain…
I felt I couldn’t breath, a pain between my shoulder blades, a heaviness in my legs. I called my oncologist with tears in my eyes, “I think I have lung cancer”. The weird thing is that no one tells you, awe, don’t be silly you’re fine! now. She scheduled a CAT scan and blood work. Scan showed slightly enlarged lymph nodes in my chest. What I heard was, “You probably have lung cancer, come back in three months to see if its grown”.
Three months of hell, terror, and pretty fabulous acting to not let anyone know I was falling apart inside.
I waited a whole 8 hours before I called to find out if the results are in.
Oh shit…that means that they found something, cause if they didn’t they would call right away to tell me its ok. Right? Called again. Results are in, and someone is going to call you to let you know whats what. GREAT!
Two hours later my phone rang with the familiar number form MSKC. My hands were shaking so hard I could swipe the touch screen to answer right away.
“Hi Ms. Sohn, can you confirm your name and date of birth for me, please?”
“Do I have lung cancer?!” I sobbed at the poor nurse.
“Oh God no! You’re fine…ehhhmmm…but can you confirm your information so I can tell you more details?”
My body started to shake, and I felt like I was just doused with cold water. NO CANCER…no cancer…not dying….keeping my hair! FUCKIN AYE!
I recited the needed information with lightning speed, to hear that I had scar tissue on the top of my lungs from radiation, which is probably what I have been feeling. It was all good.
Breathe. Breathe…but not too hard so I don’t pass out.
I don’t know whats wrong with me. I am afraid more now than I was when I got diagnosed.
I hide under the covers at night, wide awake listening to the creaks in the floor boards of my soul. They screech “I’m here. I never left. I will get you…eventually.” The murderer is gone from my home, my body, my temple, but its ghost is there. I feel it. I hear it. I am afraid of it. Im afraid of the ghost.
Now I know why they call those of us who lived through this SURVIVORS, because we survived an attack on our life. We are the lucky ones who lived. How do you deal with a ghost of something that terrifies you? You can’t run. Can’t hide. It’s in your house, and you feel its presence. How do you know that the murderer was not part of gang…what if another one decided to try again and finish what was started.
Fear is unreasonable, instinctual, powerful. It can prevent you from getting hurt, but can also prevent you from moving forward, from striving, from recovering.
I knew I had to perform an exorcism…an exorcism of the ghost that still lived inside me, whispering damaging thoughts through the creaks and pains of my bones.
I did not know how.
I was never afraid for my life before. I didn't know how to convince myself that everything was going to be ok. What could I do to make this better? Then I realized I had thrown away my beliefs of what is healthy and good for me because in my mind it had not
worked before, so why should I trust it will work now? I stopped exercising. My diet wasn’t anything to write home about. When friends mentioned acupuncture, herbalist, or nutritionist to help bounce me back to what I recalled being “normal”, I politely smiled and said "its ok, thanks guys!"
My body was battered, and my mind was in shock.
Shock. P.T.S.D. (more on this in the next article)
I started reading about how other women dealt with their attempted murderers and their ghosts. What did they do to prevent it being a gang crime? Talking to women who I know (which are way too many!) who have survived and moved on, living happy lives, gave me hope. I wanted to find THE secret. Something I could fix in me, so I wouldn't feel so broken. Damaged. Open for another attack.
I know, right. Denial.
There are no quick fixes. No exorcism you can perform on your mind. There is no plan or chart you can follow to make yourself magically unafraid. In my search I found the four cornerstones of what seemed to have gotten many women through the maze of their haunted house of their being, and out the other side, realizing that it was all smoke and mirrors. Scary thoughts. Anticipation of terror. Unreasonable, crippling fear of the whispers of the killer’s ghost.
FEAR that it was not alone and brought accomplices.
I needed a different “F” WORD!
These saved me from becoming a ghost myself, a bit cliche, agreed, but let me explain.
Facts. Faith. Family/Friends. Fulfillment.
Facts. Gather relevant, critical, and did I mention RELEVANT information in a folder (computer or paper).
Rant: When I say relevant I don't mean start cruising the vast space of the internet and read all the stories of battles that were lost by women with “your cancer”. There is no such thing. I almost drove myself COO COO CRAZY doing this. It wasn’t a long trip for me to begin with….so, BAD IDEA.
You are unique. Your body and mind are unique.
If you can’t handle doing the research because it hurts and your heart floods with fear and anxiety, designate someone to do it for you. You can ask for facts as you go through each experience, so that you are not overwhelmed. I recommend always taking that person with you on appointments so that you can have another pair of ears interpreting and adding to your “facts” folder.
Thus the next “F” is important.
Family/Friends. Keep them close. Let them in.
No shame, embarrassment or fear of blame.
Accept their help. There is no shame in admitting you are not a superhero.
They are your strength and your support. Only those who offer good vibes, actual help, and encouragement are welcome to stick around through this experience. You will know who those people are, and do not be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone that you just can not be around them right now…or ever. Those who love you will be there with you, wherever you are at that moment.
Faith. Stay positive through your belief in the universe, God, or the power of positive thinking. Where ever you find strength, encouragement, and determination to fight, go there in your mind and your heart. Faith keeps you centered. Faith keeps you strong. Faith keeps your soul lit bright so the ghosts of the killer has no where to hide.
Fulfillment. This is something that I find to be crucial in remaining healthy and positive. They say you hear laughter in a happy home. Your home, your house, your temple….your body needs to be happy to stay healthy. What makes your soul soar and your heart fill with joy? What makes you smile when you think of it?
I know it's simplistic, but it's true. Fill your house with laughter and you will feel joy. Happiness leads to decreased stress, less anxiety, clearer minds, and better choices.
If you love your job and it makes your being feel fulfilled thats GREAT! If you are like me, and like your job very much, but need to do more to be full, then please don’t forget to do it. Painting, singing, crafting, soup kitchens, grooming your dog, collecting dolls, organizing your house so that everything is in a labeled box stacked alphabetically….
MUST. STOP. PROJECTING.
If you don’t know what that is yet, I strongly recommend you devote some time to self discovery. Do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, try different things, see what speaks to you, what you are drawn to. You don't have to be “good at it” necessarily, BUT YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT.
In my journey I discovered that what makes me whole, fulfilled and happy is creating beauty and helping others discover theirs.
I have FINALLY found what gives me peace, purpose, and power to make a difference in myself.
I released the ghost.
I let go of the darkness, the fear that was holding me back.
My Foundation is strong with the four F words (get your head out of the gutter!)
My once dark house full of creeks and whispers of doubt is lit bright from inside with LOVE. Love I feel when I am with my clan, my family, my friends. Faith in the best possible outcome I can manifest. Fulfillment in the knowledge that I am doing something to help others, and being passionate about what I love.
And that’s a FACT!
This is the painting that will be transformed into a scarf for October's breast cancer awareness month. It has my signature heart design, with the pink ribbon and the words that kept me going along the boarder.