Symbolism, an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind.
When I was in remission (shortly after my double mastectomy), I really wanted to show off my pride of being a breast cancer survivor. Not only am I now a breast cancer survivor, but a BRCA+ warrior. I had my heart set on a Sydney Evan Awareness Ribbon necklace. It was perfect. Not overstated. Not understated. A delicate, sweet symbolic representation of my breast cancer plight and new remission status. And in real honesty, it was also a way for me to feel more comfortable about going out in public with my short hair. I was always self conscious about how I looked in public wearing a head scarf during chemo, but when my hair started to grow, I was actually even more self conscious. At least when I had a head scarf, it was obvious I was in treatment. With very short hair, I wasn’t really sure what others would make of my appearance. Donning a pink ribbon necklace, was a way for me to feel a tinge more comfortable as my hair growth journey began. It provided an unspoken message and understanding to strangers that yes, I am a breast cancer survivor.
My sister and I discussed getting symbolic tattoos that represented our BRCA/cancer journey’s. As I mentioned in earlier posts, she decided to get a preventative mastectomy after I was diagnosed. She tested positive for BRCA1 mutation at 19. After some thought, however, I decided not to pursue the tattoo, and for the first time in a year and a half, I took off my Awareness Ribbon necklace to put on something else. Not that I am no longer proud of my cancer fight, or even letting go of that identity as a cancer survivor/BRCA+ woman, I just don’t need it to define the person I am today. I can embrace the journey, the experience, the memories (good & bad), the courage, awareness, and the understanding of how precious life and our health is, within my own personal evolution. I no longer feel the need to express it on a daily basis, even as a small representation in the form of a delicate necklace hanging on my chest. Sure, I will definitely wear it again, but today, as I look at the person I have become, the pain and challenges I’ve faced, I can thankfully take it off with ease and allow myself to just be Alyssa; mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, corporate executive, dog owner, music lover, singer, cancer survivor, BRCA1+.
We are all in different stages of our BRCA journeys. I hope in sharing some of my thoughts, others can take comfort that even though their BRCA journey may have just begun, or perhaps somewhere stuck in the middle, there’s much more life to live afterwards. It will always be a part of your life, but in eventuality, just a piece of your whole story.
xo ’til next time my fellow BRCA’nites/cancer sisters