There are many women who can relate to where I have been in the last three years and how I feel about myself and my life. After all, each of us has challenges to face, sadnesses to endure and hopefully, triumphs to keep us going. Although my circumstances may vary from yours, perhaps you can relate to my experience and share the happiness and contentment I now know.
Today I live blissfully in a peaceful, century old cottage on a farm near Damascus, Georgia. I get lots of exercise in my garden, nurturing the many plants and trees in my care. But not so long ago, I was on a fast track, married and living in a beautiful house in Buckhead, right at the center of Atlanta’s social whirl. What seemed a dream come true for a small town girl came tumbling down when, with three children and many years of being a full-time wife and mother, I got divorced. Those of us who have been there know, divorce is a soul searching, gut wrenching experience, not to mention a major turning point in one’s life.
Not long after my divorce and when I wondered if I could feel any worse, I learned I had breast cancer. Things looked grim, so believe me, I’ve had quite a journey to get to where I am today. The bright spot is that I am not only a survivor of both divorce and breast cancer, but I am happier, more physically fit and feel better about the way I look today than I ever have before. It is this happiness, new found peace of mind, physical rejuvenation and a less stressful, more fulfilling lifestyle that lead me to share my story with you.
This story is about the decisions I’ve made and what have I done in order to go from the most dismal point in my life to feeling and looking like a winner once again. It’s been a quilt-like journey of emotions and blessings, one that has been hard, but one that has forever changed me for the better.
My story begins when my divorce was final in August, 1993. That October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, followed by the removal of one breast or in less gentle sounding terms, a radical mastectomy. After the surgery, I began an aggressive chemotherapy program, which left me completely bald. I also developed a condition known as Bell’s Palsy, causing partial facial paralysis. I became extremely thin. It was not a pretty picture, to say the least. This experience had a very real way of putting everything else into perspective. Anything that frightened me or worried me before paled in comparison.
I can’t sugar-coat how I felt. I had feelings of isolation and plenty of self-esteem baggage from the divorce. Now that was compounded with genuine fear and dread. On top of that, I really had a hard time looking in the mirror. It seemed unrealistic that I would ever again look normal – let alone regain my sense of self or restore my appearance and femininity. Everything seemed bleak, and looking back, this was the most horrible time of my life. But I guess people are like tea bags. We don’t know how strong we are until we’re in hot water. Fortunately, l was strong enough to hang in by sheer willful determination, and gradually things began to improve. For starters, the Bell’s Palsy was temporary, and the symptoms disappeared. In time, my hair grew. That I’d live to see more bad hair days was cause for celebration. Ironically, for the first time in my life, I was thrilled to be gaining weight, after never wanting to pinch an extra inch.
In early 1995, a real turning point was breast reconstruction. From that time, I began to reclaim myself and embark on a process of health-conscious, spiritual rediscovery and a personal adventure that restructured my life, restored my energy and revitalized my appearance in amazing ways.
And guess what? When my oncologist pronounced me strong and healthy again, I made the decision to have cosmetic surgery, including a face, neck, brow and eye lift, nose contouring and laser skin resurfacing. After much soul search