Have you ever had a moment where it seems like the entire universe aligned around you and something that you really wanted to happen but never thought was possible…. actually happened? It doesn’t seem real yet, but this is happening to me. As most of you know my journey with breast cancer really started when my Aunt Pam was diagnosed and lost her battle when I was in high school. Not many people know this, but when she passed away, I made a promise to myself and to her that I would someday honor her by getting involved with the cause. I did a few awareness campaigns while I was in college, but I didn’t really feel like I was making a difference until 2011, when Vicki and I came together to create a campaign to nominate Vicki to be a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres show and fulfill her wish to share her breast cancer story with the world. Since Vicki had referred to her time with breast cancer as her “pink time” we decided to create a “pink time” facebook page to rally support for her wish. “Pink Time” first became the reference used when discussing her journey with Family and Friends. As well, being the reference to the singer “PINK” whose music provided courage and strength while the chemo drugs were being pumped into her body. Our efforts weren’t enough to get Vicki on the show that October, but a very beautiful friendship was born between the two of us.
Over the past 5 years Vicki and I have shared a very unique and close connection, even being bound to matching knee-high orthopedic boots to be worn at the same time, from different injuries. It had become pretty clear that our paths were meant to cross and we couldn’t shake the feeling that something much bigger brought the two of us together. Although the universe has dropped subtle hints over the years, we really had no idea just how connected we would become until this past February 16th, when I too was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. This is a connection that neither of us wanted to have, but we were again reminded that something much bigger then either of us was at work 5 years ago when this journey began.
Vicki was actually the first person that my husband and I called after I received the devastating news. If anyone could make sense of this gut-wrenching situation, and help us find a way to break the news to our families, it was Vic. Breast cancer had touched my heart through my Aunt Pam and my dear friend Vicki, so on the very first day that my doctor said the words… “I think this is breast cancer”, I decided that I wanted to openly and honestly share my journey in hopes that it would help bring hope, awareness, and inspiration to those facing similar struggles. That’s when I started My Personal Pink Time.
Although we have been separated by hundreds of miles during most of the hardest year of my life, Vicki has made me feel as if she was right there with me through every scary appointment, every painful procedure and surgery, and even through the hardest of my chemo and radiation treatments. She helped me to stay optimistic when my reality finally hit me in the face, she lifted me in times of fear and sadness, and she always made sure to remind me that this journey was about “me” and I had the right to every one of my feelings; even sadness, anger, and gratitude. She also helped me to see that it was ok for me to withdraw from my need to share at times and take time for myself. In a sense, she helped me to get to know and understand the “real Tammy”, that was hiding underneath my brave face. At the same time she also taught me to have compassion and love for myself when I was expecting perfection from every situation.
Our friendship was deepening by the minute, however the roles had now reversed. I know I have said this before, but I truly believe that facing breast cancer has opened me up and made me into a better and stronger version of myself. A year ago I didn’t have the confidence to talk to anyone about my personal life or my personal struggles, and this past month I not only shared intimate details of the past year, but I also stepped out of “myself” for the first time ever and bared all of my scars in front of a class of occupational therapy students to give them a first hand look at breast cancer. I feel like I am finally fulfilling my promise to my aunt and making a difference.
One of the most moving conversations Vicki and I have had was the first time Vicki expressed how proud she has been of me for having the courage to identify, acknowledge and bravely express my inner most feelings publicly and for inspiring and encouraging others along the way. Her words warm my heart and again leave me believing in things bigger then us. I have always felt a connection to my Aunt Pam through Vicki and I have even said that I believe my Aunt may have had a hand in bringing the two of us together years ago, but maybe just maybe it’s even bigger then that.
This past New Years Eve marked the end of the worst year of my life and filled me with hope for a bright New Year. I was asked to come up with a fun goal for 2016. After giving it some thought I was reminded of what brought Vicki and I together all those years ago; our shared “pinkness” and of course the Ellen show. Through watching the Ellen show we were both able to find fun and humor in even the most painful of our recoveries, and the darkest of our treatment days. We were unsuccessful in getting Vicki on the Ellen show to share her breast cancer journey 5 years ago so I realized that the one thing that would bring me the most joy, would be to bring our journey together full-circle and at least attend a live taping of the Ellen show with my dear heart friend Vicki.
Here’s where the universe aligns…. On Jan. 1st I requested tickets to a live taping of the Ellen show for several dates in 2016, fully expecting that nothing would happen because I have read how hard it is to randomly be selected to attend a taping. Now for the amazing part: I received a call, from a women who announced that she was from the Ellen Show. Crazy right? But it gets better. She said that she had tickets for me to attend a live taping the show on February 16th of this year…. which just happens to be the one-year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Did this give you goose bumps? Because it sure did me… but in a good way of course. Like many things that have happened in the past year this seems VERY meant to be. We are still working on the logistics of the trip, but at this point it looks like Vicki and I will be sitting side-by-side just two weeks from today, on the anniversary of the scariest day of my life, in a moment that brings our journey together full circle and the most amazing part of this is that all of this will be taking place…. AT THE ELLEN SHOW. We won’t actually be on the show, but you may catch a glimpse of us in the audience. Maybe I was right to be hopeful that 2015 was my bad year and that good things would come for me in 2016. Pinch me; is this for real?