There are moments when storms present themselves in our lives and the waves beat against us fiercely. A storm presented itself in my life, but in the form of breast cancer. At the time, I was employed at an engineering and architecture company as a full-time drafter and enrolled in a Master’s degree program. I was also a CASA volunteer, serving as a Court Appointed Advocate for Abused and Neglected Children. As if my plate wasn’t already full, I was compiling a work of poetry. Then, I received the news, “You have breast cancer.”
It crept in slowly
and I knew not
a flower lay wilting
with its roots stricken
to dismember a part of me
The possibility of an imminent death heightened the realization of my mortality. I felt as if I had reached an expiration date that was approaching like a carton of milk with not much shelf time left. For the first time, I understood what it meant to walk through the valley in the shadow of death.
As the process of my journey took its course, there were moments filled with echoes of silence. Life appeared to be passing by and everyone was going on with their lives, oblivious to the internal struggle I was experiencing. I started painting, transferring my pain on canvas, which soon unfolded into a series of paintings. I never imagined that they would attract an audience or that my breast cancer journey would unfold in such an unexpected manner. I was very reluctant to take center stage because there is always an element of vulnerability to unveiling one’s soul compounded by the feeling of being overexposed.
A majority of the work portrays characters with faceless features because I felt I was among a sea of faces diagnosed with breast cancer. Mentally, I inquired of God, if I was going to die. I was praying for a miracle; however, when the report came back, the diagnosis was reconfirmed. I wanted to escape from it all, instead, I was cornered before a door-unfolding a journey not necessarily my choice.
In the game of chess, the pawn, though numerous, is the weakest piece and an isolated pawn is defenseless. As a result of the diagnosis, I felt like that pawn helpless, on the checkerboard of life. Though my faith in God was being put to the test, it was the same faith that carried me through when I was too weak to stand on my own strength-providing a place of refuge and solace.
While undergoing my radiation treatments, I had the opportunity to engage with support groups for breast cancer patients. I also attended a red carpet event which exhibited a host of survivors at different stages of their development and progress. There was one brave breast cancer male survivor, who strutted with confidence while his wife cheered him on along the sidelines. It was heartwarming seeing the parade of survivors giving hope to those of us struggling with our intimidating diagnosis.
During ancient games “a great multitude of spectators usually occupied the circular seats in the amphitheater, from which they could easily behold the combatants (Barnes Commentary).” Today, during marathons, you will find a host of family and friends cheering runners from the sidelines-screaming out their names, ringing cowbells, blowing horns, as well as offering words of encouragement on posters. Each year, during the month of October, we commemorate Breast Cancer awareness. We also celebrate the survivors as well as remember friends and loved ones who are no longer with us physically, but remain in our hearts and minds.
With the release of this Blog, I pay tribute in remembrance of two lovely ladies I met while undergoing our individual breast cancer treatments. I cannot share my story without remembering them. It was very agonizing that I should live and they should not . . . knowing their family and friends would feel the void of their loss for years to come. Yet, our individual experience does not detract from our journey. Thank you for joining me in sharing our journey, my story.
My name is Aribel Del Carmen León Parris. I am a breast cancer survivor.
© Copyright 2017 Breast Cancer Survivor’s Footprints, All Rights Reserved. Please visit my website at http://www.breastcancersurvivorsfootprints.com
All artwork, poetry, and content are property of Breast Cancer Survivor’s Footprints, Aribel León-Lynn [Aribel Del Carmen León Parris]. Images and content cannot be reproduced for commercial or non-commercial purposes without authorized written permission.