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My Pink Planner's Survivor Blogger Laura Walsh Plunkett: Being a Breast Cancer Survivor

Laura Plunkett, second from left, poses with her daughter, Morgan, left, son, Jack, and her husband, Michael

Being a breast cancer survivor means so many things to me. As I grow through my acceptance of the disease, so does the meaning of the term “survivor”. When I was first diagnosed at stage 2, I must admit that I hit warrior mode. I was pragmatic and swift at decisions. My husband and I not only led our medical team, but we were thoughtful in our research as well as the selection of our doctors.

This was because I was only 32 with no family history and no known risks. I had otherwise been a “healthy” person before this diagnosis. I did not think of myself as a “survivor”, just someone who was dealing with cancer for a year. I thought I would be able to slough cancer off my body like a pair of a dirty jeans, that maybe I could just wash the jeans with surgery and chemotherapy and begin life anew. I approached the situation aggressively and thoroughly so I could achieve this goal.

Then the confirmation of a spot on my liver, moved me into Stage 4 status. This is really when I began to contemplate the meaning of being a “survivor”. I was beginning to dig deeper to accept my condition on an emotional level. I was starting to understand the value of other survivors in my life. The realization that I would never be considered “cured” was heartbreaking, at first. I began to wonder how I had gotten myself into this condition. I then remembered it was no one’s fault, especially not mine. Cancer just happens.

Through all of this turmoil, a better version of me was starting to emerge from the cocoon. This butterfly was getting her wings and starting to understand the relevance of empathy to others. I was awkward in my approach, but I was starting to come alive. I was acknowledging the importance of my emotional reactions in the grand scheme of the sisterhood of survivors. If I was feeling certain emotions, weren’t other women having these same reactions? I wanted to make sure that I got back to basics, to the importance of living in the day and loving those around me. I took up writing again, a long ago passion that I had put aside. I wanted to share with others, felt compelled to do nothing else professionally but help other survivors.

Getting back to basics also meant remembering that I had always been an athlete. I took up cycling to help me feel strong and keep pace physically with my mental competition against cancer. Cancer interrupted my training for the MS150, but did not diminish my resolve to compete in the ride. I was riding for someone else’s disease and that mattered to me now more than ever. I was starting to understand the relevance of being empathetic to other people’s situations. I wanted to better accept others and heal myself in the process.

Visit My Pink Planner this week for part two of Laura's "Survivor Story."

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