When my Occupational Therapist asked me to let her do a live demonstration or therapy session on my cording during a presentation on Post Mastectomy Cording and Lymphedema that she was giving the GVSU graduating OT students this past December, I really didn’t know what to expect… or should I say; I didn’t make time to over-think what was about to happen as I often do. Instead, I kept my promise to allow this journey with breast cancer, to take me where I was meant to go and I accepted the invitation to share some of the real struggles that come from breast cancer with young students who will indeed be in the position to help women like me in the future. Although I walked into the lecture hall not knowing what to expect, I was completely in the moment and did exactly what felt right. I shared not only a bit of my story, and the struggles I am still facing post mastectomy/reconstructive surgeries, but I also bared all and showed my real lasting breast cancer battle scars and a glimpse into some of the drastic physical effects of breast cancer and how that impacts or limits aspects of your everyday life after breast cancer. I know I have said this many times before, but before my diagnosis I would have never shared these details with even my closest friends let alone a group of students I have never meant, but this year has opened me up in ways that I cannot explain. My own personal insecurities now fall second to my passion to make a difference and turn my crazy year into some type of positive. So far, following my my gut impulse and most importantly following my heart in the moment, has not let me down this year and this day was no different. Every student in the room had compassion, was engaged, and most of all every student was there in the moment with me. I was at ease, and I felt safe, but most of all, I felt like in that exact moment, I had the ability to give each and every student a real look at what a young woman with breast cancer really face, even the things that nobody really ever talks about, and I had the ability to help my amazing occupational therapist Amy teach these students first hand, so that one day when a woman dealing with all the physical struggles that come from breast cancer is sitting in their office, they will be able to better help them with a better understanding of their struggles. Although both my husband and I were both shocked at how much I actually shared, there was no regret. I walked out of that classroom feeling grateful that Amy asked me to be a part of her presentation, but also feeling like being there that day, was in a way fulfilling one of the purposes that has been laid before me.
That purpose got a little greater, a month or so back. A few occupational therapy students from SVSU in Saginaw, MI happened to see Grand Valley’s post about the presentation that Amy and I give on Facebook and they contacted me right away to see if both Amy and I would be willing to do a very similar presentation for their class as well. Originally they wanted us to be a part of a conference that involved, professionals, students, faculty, patients, and caregivers, however the dates just didn’t align on our end so we ended up doing a presentation one a Friday afternoon after their classes had let out. This time around, I knew what to expect, I knew that I would be talking and sharing with these students and I knew that there was a pretty great potential that I would again open myself up and bare my scars…. So I took the time to over-think it and I was nervous, but talking with my occupational therapist on the 2 hour drive to Saginaw helped so much. To our surprise there was no professor or instructor present that Friday, and no one was requiring that these students were present for our presentation. In fact, they arranged this lecture on their own time, because they wanted to be there, they wanted to meet the two of us, and most importantly they wanted to learn from us.
Realizing that, put my mind at ease right away. As I sat on the table and listened to Amy give her breast cancer background and her post mastectomy cording intro, I realized that again I was right where I was meant to be. My OT Amy, is quite amazing herself and also happens to be a young, two-time breast cancer survivor herself, so she comes with expertise from both a professional and a personal level. She explained what happens to a woman’s body during and after breast cancer, and breast surgery, and she talked about the struggles that we breast cancer warriors face every single day. Each and every student was hanging on every single word. I found myself taking in all that she was saying and in a sense educating myself “on the other side of my breast care”. That was until she got the the part where she explained that typically, post mastectomy cording takes about 4-6 weeks to break up, and that it usually gets better, but that I was her special case, because my cording is very pesky and complicated in that it keeps returning with a vengeance thus proving that I am again that .01% that broke the mold. Oddly this surprised me. Amy then worked my cording in front of the class to show how she stretches, pulls, and even tries to break the cords that restrict the movement in my shoulder and arm. Let’s just say she didn’t hold back, so it was at times hard to hide the pain. OK it was quite obvious that it was painful…. but I did my best to smile through it. When it came time for me to share the real battle scares, the nerves had settled and it just felt right. Honestly if felt very much like an intimate conversation with a somewhat large group of people, if that is at all possible. The students were again, quite respectful, engaged, and almost captivated at what both Amy and I had to say, which meant we again walked out with no regrets. I feel so honored that I was able to be a part of Amy’s presentation and again I feel very honored that I was able give the students from SVSU a first hand look at what one of their future patients might be facing.
#sharingandteaching #mypersonalpinktime #SVSUotprogram