My Occupational therapist asked me to join her this past Wednesday as she gave a guest lecture to Grand Valley State University’s Graduating OT students on both Lymphedema and Auxiliary Web Syndrome. I really thought that I was just going to be laying on a table pretending that it didn’t hurt as she demonstrated how to treat the cording that runs down my arm and across my chest. What she didn’t tell me was that she was also going to have me share the details of my Breast Cancer journey with the class.
I have learned to share publicly through this page, however sharing my story in front of a live crowd definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. In that moment all eyes were on me. Although I was panicking inside, I knew I had to keep it together on the outside. To my surprise, the students very quickly put me at ease. They were so respectful, receptive, and almost captivated by what I had to say. The lecture turned into a bit of a question and answer session before my therapist had me lay on the table. As she walked through the process of finding, stretching and breaking the cording up, she invited the students to feel the cords and tightness for themselves.
We then talked about the effects that my infections and emergency surgeries have had on my reconstruction and rehabilitation process. As she tried to explain that the tissue on my right side (the side that I lost my tissue-expander due to infection) has reattached to my chest wall thus complicating my next surgery, I looked up at her and calmly said “you can just show them if it would be more helpful”. I don’t know who I shocked more in that moment… Jordan or myself.
I was so much in the moment that I really didn’t see the reaction of the students however Jordan said that he saw a few students did tear up as I removed my prosthetic/bra revealing the true scares of breast cancer. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I would have changed a thing and what shocks me the most is I think I would do it all again if I was asked too. This entire experience has again reminded me that some good has come from this life altering diagnosis. I am opening up in ways that I never thought were possible and becoming a person that I never thought I could be.