I used to have a lot of issues with the term “previvor” because it frightened me. It was an acknowledgement that I was trying to beat something to the punch… in this case that was my worst fear. I went through a lot of my life up until my diagnosis knowing that something wasn’t right. I remember being a teenager and working out a family tree highlighting who had died from cancer. It became an obsessive anxiety of mine because I always felt like I was hurtling towards cancer, like a disaster film where you watch the comet falling to earth in slow motion.
Then, I was diagnosed and I felt immediate relief, like I was in control again. Then, I started to obsess over beating cancer to the punch. I researched what vegetables to eat, what I could cut out. Then, what came next surprised me: peace. I came into the LFS community so frightened and there were times when finding out more made my anxieties worse, but one day it felt like a switch had flipped. I was in control of my own life again because there was no longer just the one path for my metaphorical slow motion comet.
You see, I always thought that the comet that was coming at me had one path and one path only; I truly believed it was heading for impact and couldn’t be stopped because the pattern had always been the same… they caught it too late and I lost them. I thought that would be the same for me. Then, I finally saw that comet, that previvor potential, for what it was now - possibilities. I had been given the power many people I loved never had. The comet no longer had one path, surgeries, scans, knowledge, it was all there for me and I might not be able to avoid it coming for me, but I could minimise its impact in ways the people I love couldn’t.
I still wrestle back and forth with how I feel about my journey, but I find that most days being a previvor brings me a sense of peace I never expected. I feel normal again because I feel empowered and in control.
Three weeks ago I had my final reconstruction surgery after my mastectomy and I’m so proud to have taken a huge step. I look forward to my scans and I feel stronger than I ever have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a struggle emotionally to let go of what I once looked like, rippling and capsular contracture really affected how I felt in the process, but I always felt grateful to have the option to do this and take my life by the horns. I still pushed myself, in fact I’ve included a photograph of me on a girls holiday that worried me so much because I worried if people would notice the capsular contracture in my swimsuits (they didn’t because people are never as critical about you as you are about yourself). But, there I was, in a gorgeous place, happy, healthy and knowing that I had my life and my options back. The anxiety that strangled me for most of my life loosened its grip and I was on my journey fixing myself mentally, physically and emotionally as a previvor.
I empathize with everything you mentioned, Aimee. I am also embracing my life as a previvor... especially after having both ovaries removed... a double-mastectomy and also later to have an explant due to implant illnesses. I still have my days, however, I'm at peace and sharing hopefulness with you.
To many many memories of love and laughter!