Last week I had my final surgery: breast reconstruction.
As I type this, I can’t help but chuckle a bit at that lead sentence. The reality is, once you’ve heard the words “it’s cancer,” you never truly know what’s “final.” There’s no guarantee in all of this and just as easily as someone can be hit by a car and pass tomorrow, my “final” can be short lived.
Yet as an athlete we learn to celebrate the victories and learn from the losses and that’s where I’m at in this.
I recently shared with some friends the valuable lessons taught to me about vanity, through this bout with cancer. In the past 15 months I’ve been bald, bloated, bandaged and fluffy. If being 100 percent transparent I never truly viewed myself as vain in any way. I’ve always been pretty simple, perhaps even plain by my own account. Then I lost my hair and realized how important certain things really were to me.
Now on the other side of the final surgery, I actually don’t know if I’ll have to walk that path again someday. Sadly, I’ve watched too many in my life experience that feeling of completion, victory, only to walk the path again. Heartbreaking is an understatement. It’s a disease which knows no mercy.
My oncology nurse shared early on that in her experience, God gives cancer to the strongest. I can honestly say, while I’m not sure where I fit in all of that, I’ve personally watched some true warriors battle like no one could never imagine.
But I didn’t start this piece with the intention to bring us all down. I mean we all know cancer sucks and does not discriminate.
Today this is more about the lessons and the gratitude.
Last Wednesday as I woke from surgery, I wept. They were genuine tears of relief. This chapter was over.
As I peeked in on my new “girls” I quickly realized I had little concern as to how they looked. I was simply grateful to have this all done. The completion of it all struck me kind of funny as I looked at my surgeon’s work. What were my expectations?
It had been 10 months since my mastectomy. Ten months of temporary with a surgery far off in the distance. Looking at his work last week, while I was grateful I was also indifferent.
In short, I truly didn’t care how they looked; I was alive!
In the words of a loved one, the surgeries were for my health not for looks and that’s the truth.
Over the days which passed I realized where I’m at in all of this. No longer do I care if my roots are showing, I’m simply grateful to have hair. It’s hard to describe to someone the joyous feeling which comes over you the first time your hair is windblown after being bald. It’s honestly like magic.
So as I shared earlier that I’ve always thought myself to be a simple girl, this chapter has placed that feeling on steroids.
I’m simply so grateful to still be here for my children, to hug the ones I love and see the smiles of so many. And while yes, I’m still a girl who likes to look “cute,” sweating the small stuff just doesn’t work for me any longer.
At the end of the day it’s not about appearances, it’s about life. The good days and the bad, the happy moments and the sad are what shape us to be the genuine souls that we are. I’m grateful for that.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.