I don’t know that I’ll ever look at the month of October the same again.
Earlier this month I shared in a column, that when I learned I had breast cancer I knew I would need to share my story with our readers. At the time, the vehicle I had in mind was the 209 Magazine. I did not envision at that time, dedicating a column each week of October to the topic of Breast Cancer.
Some may feel as a journalist I have missed my mark, as I capitalized on the opportunity to use the forum to speak on breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness month. I wholeheartedly accept that criticism.
As writers we learn early on a lesson, which is valuable in all facets in life – we’ll never make everyone happy.
I come to you not as a medical expert or a researcher; there are plenty of people filing those shoes. I come to you as a daughter, a mother, a spouse, a sister and a friend walking a path that none of us wish for another. Yet here we are.
So as we look to the end of my inaugural month as a breast cancer survivor, during breast cancer awareness month I’d like to shed light on the beauty of humanity and selflessness which I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the other side of.
Raised in a family of givers, I’ve always seemed to have a giving heart. Nothing makes me happier than to see the smile (or tear) of another when blessing their life with something unexpected. I loved collecting coins (or bills) in the orange box each October as a child to help raise money for UNICEF.
Fast forward to adult age and the love of giving and supporting causes or loved ones continued. The lesson which so many of us have learned; you personally gain more from giving than receiving. That’s my personal experience at least.
Now, I’ve lived a handful of months on the other side.
In honesty it’s been a rough transition. Relying on others for rides to appointments or help with my kids took a little tough talk (via FaceTime) from a few dear friends. I still remember it so vividly. Days following my first chemo treatment, not feeling as strong as I had anticipated and unable to do things I had planned. All three of our eyes filled with tears as I allowed myself to become vulnerable, humbled by this disease.
The journey changed that day as I accepted God had placed the right people in our lives to not just see us through this, but walk it with us.
Since that day we have been blessed by so much love, support and thoughtfulness that it is at times overwhelming. Personally speaking, as well as professionally love and support seems to be all around us.
As the person who’s more accustomed to being the giver, I realized early on that as uncomfortable as it may be to be the receiver it would be invaluable to our family, as my children would feel the love. I later came to realize this held just as much value for my mom. As a parent, now I get it. Seeing others love on our children just really fills the heart.
This really became apparent most recently, as a Modesto based earring company (Rosie and Jean) took a pro-active stance and decided to “adopt” three community Breast Cancer Survivors to bless with love from the community.
Side note, this company was all new to me. I had no personal connection to them, nor they I, aside from a pair of earrings one of my besties asked them to make so that my tribe could wear in show of support during this battle.
Fast forward to last Friday when I was presented with a gift basket which would have any girl swooning. I (so it seems), happened to be one of the three community members adopted by the company and the community.
As I was presented with this (enormous and beautiful) gift, I was told how much people wanted to be a part of this. People I personally don’t know yet had some connection to my story or cancer as a whole.
The basket was filled with beautiful items from business throughout the Valley as well as hand written letters and cards with words of encouragement.
As I sorted through it from home I sent Sam (the co-owner) a text, explaining both my feelings of being overwhelmed as well as a loss for words and a need to pay this forward. I also shared that while I was at a loss for words, I would find them – in time.
So here are the words as well as the lesson.
In a time when a pandemic and social unrest seem to be plaguing us as a society, there is still a lot of good in this world. There are still people helping strangers with no political agenda. Amidst social distancing, there are still friendships being made and communities being built. Hope, faith must not be lost in this seemingly dark time known world over as 2020.
This life is so full of lessons and discoveries, trials and victories. How cool is that?
Now as I say good-bye to my inaugural month as a “survivor” during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thank the disease, as well as the hands, arms and hearts of the community as well as my tribe for some of the most valuable lessons of my life. God bless.
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 847-3021.