I want to deny. Forced through my lips, the ugliest word. It comes out as a whisper. Voice barely audible. I’m not ready to own, not ready to embrace.
It’s been 3 days. Shock still guarding me, protecting my heart, quieting my mind.
The diagnoses – cervical cancer.
It hit me with the weight of a ton of bricks – a voicemail with such concern and urgency that tears and trepidation immediately surfaced. After months of testing from an array of angles, my doctor had found the source. With Mom’s hand in mine and the strong, unwavering presence of a very special man, we sat in the doctor’s office and heard my reality change.
Cervical cancer. Minimal chance of a full hysterectomy. Can still carry a baby. Check the lymph nodes. CT scan. Specialist. Blood work. The entirety of the disease is uncertain. Radiation. Cesarean. Chances are good. Survival rate is 99%. Not terminal. Healthy. Young. Surgery.
The words came flying at me, piling on my shoulders, leaning against my chest, weighing down my heart. Tears and pain filling the room.
We walked out in a daze, following instructions like robots, made the unavoidable phone calls, and then put it away.
Exchanging the sorrow for celebration, I’ve spent the last 72 hours in a place of love and gratitude, enjoying life, indulging in delicious food, sipping strong cocktails, and laughing carelessly. My focus remains on the gifts in my life – the amazing people I call my friends, the incredible family I was born into, the memorable experiences I am treated to, and the love I am surrounded with.
This is how I tackle challenge. This is how I will tackle cancer and all that may follow.
Smile. Love. Faith. Strength.”
This blog entry was written in July of 2012, just 3 months after my 30th birthday celebration. I was young, healthy, happy, full of life and filled with hope that I would be ok. I had a Dad who’d beaten cancer 4 times, a sweet mom to soothe my soul and nurture my wounds, and a strong partner reassuring me we’d make it through to the brighter side.
The weeks that followed were full of tests, meetings, talk of possibilities and expected outcomes. Knowing I could take some time before undergoing surgery, I made the choice to go through the process of freezing my eggs. Doctors had agreed there was no guarantee that my uterus would remain and that my ovaries would make it out unharmed. I wanted to preserve my fertility. I wanted to give myself the chance to have little minis someday. I now pay rent for 18 precious eggs in Beverly Hills until that day comes when I’m ready to build my family. I’m so grateful I gave myself this gift.
My surgery took place back home in Michigan, surrounded by my family and a great team of doctors. The goal was to remove my cervix only, but after finding cancerous cells in my lymph nodes, a radical hysterectomy took place along with the removal of my appendix. The hospital stay was longer than anticipated with a few complications and minor scares. After 9 days, I was finally released. Under the amazing care of my mom and dad, I spent the next 2 weeks healing. Eager to get back to my life in California, I persuaded myself that I was ready to be on my own and begin the rebuilding. Physically, I was mending well. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional toll cancer would have on me.
2 months after surgery and settled back in on the west coast, I started treatment – radiation 5 days a week paired with 6 chemotherapy sessions. This was the hardest part of my cancer journey. I spent most days in solitude, feeling weak and guilty for having nothing to give. I didn’t recognize myself. I couldn’t feel anything. What once excited me or brought me joy, felt dull. I was draining my caretaker, my amazing boyfriend who took me into his home and supported me during this darkness, and I was shooing off my sweet friends who attempted to visit and make me smile. I needed a bigger support group and most importantly, I needed people who understood.
I began attending weekly group sessions at the Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach after encouragement from my oncologist team. These women were often the highlight of my day, that something that got me out of bed. Being surrounded by people who knew exactly what I was experiencing became fuel to my broken soul. With every story I told, or reassurance I received from another, I healed. After a couple months, I broke off into one-on-one counseling. This was my tipping point. My incredible counselor, teacher, and mentor Lisa, helped me build a foundation to stand on and grow from. In my time with her, I realized and fully accepted that I would never return to the Sara I once knew. I had new meaning, new purpose, a new perspective of life and I slowly started opening up to that shift.
4 years post surgery, I am clear of my purpose. I’m pouring my heart and soul into my inspirational lifestyle brand, The Fly Buddha, while providing free life enriching resources to young women living with or who have had cancer. In some form, we all experience challenge, we all feel broken down and in pieces at times. I want The Fly Buddha to serve as a reminder that we each have this incredible power within – a fully accessible WARRIOR to get us through any adversity that may be placed on our path.