Someone who thrives. Someone who supports their family or friend throughout the process of having cancer, sickness or disease.
When I first heard of the word ‘thriver’, I did not exactly know what exactly I was being called.
In the beginning, my definition of this word began as that. Throughout the year, my education on this matter has evolved and I hope after this article I can inspire others to become the definition of what a THRIVER really is.
Before I met Tracy, I had absolutely no idea what a Previvor, Survivor or Thriver actually meant. My mind began to swirl into questions like, “What do these words mean exactly?” and “What is a Thriver?”Over the past year, I have not only grown as a ‘Thriver’, but have developed the answers to most of my questions. I recently embarked on a business trip to New York City with Tracy. Working late and long nights, we managed to bring together women from different states, doctors and surgeons to not only educate but to present new life changing options for women who undergo mastectomies. The room that night consisted of Previvors, Survivors and Thrivers and the more I observed and listened to these amazing speakers and doctors the more I realized the profound truth behind it all. Each person had their own unique and powerful story and journey. Every single person in that room was there for a specific reason and by the end of the weekend, I was shown the true and raw reality of what these women go through mentally and physically- everyday.
There are many moments in my life no matter how large or small where it all finally hits me. A specific moment that changes my perspective on everything. I remember one specific moment in New York City that made my mind connect what was missing.
It was the night we have all worked so hard to prepare for. Before the event and medical panel, I sat down on the hotel bed putting on my earrings and finishing the small details of the finishing touches. At this moment, I was also chatting with one of the Survivors, who was also staying with us in the room at the time. We had a long night ahead of us and as we both shared the long mirror, we also began telling each other stories to make the time pass faster. As she finished perfecting her make up, she moved on to her next stage of getting ready. She reached into her bag and pulled out a small kit. As she opened it, she carefully took out what I later realized were her nipple stick ons. She began to apply adhesive on top of her mastectomy scars, prepping everything to place her nipple prosthetics on for the night. My mind was juggling around so many questions.
The more I spoke to her about how she applies them on, why she prefers that brand and the reasoning behind wanting them on that night- it hit me.
I never had to think about this before. I looked in the mirror, locked my eyes with my own and at that moment realized that I had never changed my perspective to truly understand. I never took the time to take a step back and try to place myself in their shoes. “What if it were me…?” I asked myself. I envisioned myself in front of this long mirror placing adhesive on my chest and adjusting my prosthetic nipples on because what if it were me?
I never had the time to take a step back and look at it in this different perspective.
I tried to understand the mentality behind it all. This may not be exactly how she or anyone for the matter may think or feel, but it gave me a different insight to the matter which to this day I am grateful for.
I began to wander into my mind and into my thoughts:
‘If it were me, maybe every time I looked in the mirror and saw my breasts, I would be reminded that they were different than before- before the surgery and before all the pain. It would be a constant reminder of breast cancer and the trauma overcome. Maybe, it would be a constant reminder that I would need another surgery to create new nipples for myself. That doctors would just tell me that it was simply not doable and that my skin would be too tight and sensitive. That I would require another exhausting surgery, which would be out of the question. So instead of going into nipple reconstruction options, I would explore my options only to find out that my easiest and non painful path would lead me towards prosthetic nipples. Nipples that would finally imitate the ones I used to have. Nipples that looked and felt realistic…’
I broke my gaze in the mirror with myself. My attention instantly went into that moment and back in that hotel room with her. I took a look at my own chest. All these years, I had taken my own breast for granted. I had always been so shy about my own breasts whether or not you could see my nipples through my clothes or not, but it was at that moment when I realized that I shouldn’t think about it that way. I should be grateful for them the way that they are and be glad that I have nipples. Being embarrassed of whether or not people could see my nipples through my clothes or not was simply not an option anymore. As the weekend passed my perspective and opinion began to not only evolve, but fully comprehend the extremities of these women’s journeys. As part of my job, I interviewed and listened to some of these women’s stories as I filmed each session. I was blown away. These women looked at cancer ready to fight. They took something negative and scary and turned their journey and battles into inspiration and motivation. After this trip to NYC, I came back a different woman. A different type of Thriver.
You see- being a Thriver isn’t just a physical role. It’s also being mentally invested on taking the time to educate yourself. To be present through your friend’s journey. Being in the moment and being aware and well educated on the options this world today has to offer. When I began my journey as a Thriver, I had no idea what any of that truly embodied or entailed. I had no idea where it would take me and how much it would change my perspective on how vigorous one’s soul can truly be. It wasn’t until I met Tracy, every single Previvor, Survivor and Thriver where I began to define my role as a person and Thriver. As the year continues to escape me, I will continue to grow and expand the true meaning of what a Thriver truly means. Expand and become the definition of who you want to be.
THRIVER(n,adj,v…everything) : Someone who thrives. Someone who supports their family or friend throughout the process of having cancer, sickness or disease. Picking up that phone call and saying yes to joining that family or friend to medical panel events. Rising by lifting others. Educating yourself more on the matter. Checking in with them on how they are doing mentally and not just physically. Understanding that going through trauma is not a momentary thing, but a life long endeavor.