The moment they put me in the miniature conference room by myself, I knew that something was wrong. My stomach dropped as I paced, wall to wall and back again. I was flooded with such intense anxiety that quiet tears began to roll down my cheeks. A sheen of nervous sweat tickled my palms and my throat felt tight and dry.
My life really did flash before my eyes; all of the things I’ve done and all of the things I’ve been unable to do. My hopes, my dreams, my fears. Every heartbeat carried with it a silent scream that echoed into the darkness that now laid before me.
When they entered the room there were three of them, their faces pinched with a sad kind of pity; another bad sign. They sat across from me and began speaking, but all I remember is a ringing in my ears as they said words like “calcifications” and “questionable cells” and, finally, “cancer.”
I walked out with an order for a second mammogram and a breast tissue biopsy; their fear, of course, that it was breast cancer. Breast cancer runs in my family on my maternal side. My mother and both of her sisters all battled and beat the big C. It came as no surprise, therefore, that I would have it too. Of course, I would have it. But at 26? After struggling with chronic illness for 6 years? After losing what felt like my whole life? It felt surreal.
The second mammogram came and went, and the biopsy followed. Given my chronic pain and overall hypersensitivity, I was unable to tolerate the biopsy under normal circumstances, so they went in surgically with me under full anesthesia. A week later, I was sitting in my oncologist's office nervously awaiting the news. I knew something was wrong when she came in and didn’t immediately say “congratulations it’s not cancer!” Instead, she quickly busied herself with removing my stitches and re-bandaging my biopsy incision. Then she sat back and let out a slow deep breath. She began talking about pre-cancerous cells and DCIS and early stages of breast cancer and lumpectomies and radiation versus mastectomy and reconstruction.
I sat there, listening, waiting for tears or an angry outburst. Instead, an eerie calm spread through me. “Okay,” I thought, “this isn’t the end of the world. Your life isn’t over. You can beat this. Your mom did it, her sisters did it; people survive cancer all the time.”
We booked my many follow up appointments with oncology and plastics and sent off the slides for a second opinion, just to be sure. They said they wanted my decision regarding my treatment options in two weeks. Two weeks to decide whether or not I would be signing the death warrant on my breasts or suffer through weeks and weeks of poisonous radiation that could kill me faster than the cancer, given the weak state of my body and my overall poor health.
The car ride home was quiet. A million thoughts moved through my mind, from “how could this happen to me” to “fuck cancer I’ve survived worse” to “how do I tell people and swallow their pity.”
“It’s cancer,” I typed in so many messages, sinking into the support of my online community of friends and family. Their support was immediately emphatic and unwavering; even strangers reached out to send their love and prayers. Some of the loudest voices, in particular, were those of my fellow ravers and festival lovers.
Becoming a greater part of the rave and festival communities over the past year has been one of my greatest blessings. Learning to live and love by the tenets of PLUR has been an incredible journey full of gratitude and growth.
I’ve spent years struggling with the concept of self-love, but when I put on my makeup, my face jewels, my Kritter Klips and my rave outfit, I feel as if I can do anything. With the rave and festival communities at my back, fighting and beating breast cancer no longer feels like an insurmountable obstacle. I have made peace with my diagnosis and the ensuing chaos of the treatment process, and I’m ready to take on this next chapter of my life.
Stay tuned next week for part two of this series! 💕
All my love,