[NCSD guest blog post by Fabianna Marie]
Cancer can make you feel very alone. It is your mind and body fighting against cancer: an epic, internal battle. You deal with exhaustion and side effects of treatment, but you don’t want to be a burden, so you suffer in silence. In 13 years of fighting, a valuable lesson I learned is that cancer does not just happen to you when you are diagnosed, it becomes the illness of everyone who loves you. Your pain becomes their pain. Your sorrow becomes their sorrow. Your anger fuels their anger. However, your laughter also becomes their laughter. Your smile makes them smile. Your love fuels their love and the desire to help you.
It has taken me a long time to grasp this concept. I pride myself on being a strong and independent woman. What I was missing was the fact that letting people help does not make me any less independent or strong. I have had to learn to accept help when it is offered, to trust that when people offer help, it is because they truly want to. I have had to stop blaming myself for not being able to do everything alone and to stop thinking I am less of a mother, wife, and person because I need to take time to rest and heal.
Let’s talk about resting for a moment. I have fought taking time to rest for a lot of my 13-year battle. I viewed rest as a sign of weakness, that I was letting the cancer get the upper hand by succumbing to the exhaustion. I pushed myself hard—too hard—and at times found myself bedridden or hospitalized. It may sound counterproductive, and physically it was, but mentally I needed to live as normal a life as possible to deal with my metastatic state. Over the last year I have worked diligently on my mindset about rest. I now understand that allowing my body to rest does not mean I’m giving up, it is the exact opposite. By resting, I allow my body to fight with more vigor and to rebuild itself. By allowing others to help with daily tasks like cooking and transporting my daughter to dance, I have created more time for things like meditation, Pilates, and napping. It truly takes a village.
When you replace the “I” in illness with “we” it becomes wellness. Learning to accept help has also been about allowing others to support me emotionally. When I was first diagnosed at the age of 27, I fought joining a support group because I didn’t want to take on anyone else’s problems. I just wanted to deal with my problems in my own way. I had no idea how wrong I was.
In the fall of 2015, I created a resource for support and inspiration for anyone facing adversity. The Fabulously Fighting movement and community was born, and through it I have come to meet some truly amazing and inspirational people. In April of 2017, I had the honor of becoming the ambassador for the Miss Pink Organization. The instantaneous bond that I have with my fellow pink warriors is unique, precious, and beautiful. We share an intimate experience, one to which you can only truly relate if you have faced your own mortality due to cancer. This sisterhood has offered a type of emotional support that I did not realize existed.
We share a bond. Every single one of us has battled cancer or loved someone who has. We are all a part of the intricate webbing of life, with and after illness. Together, we are turning illness into wellness and never looking back.
Dr. Fabianna Marie is a 13-year cancer fighter and the award-winning author of Fabulously Fighting: Living with Cancer Through Love, Laughter, and Honesty. She is an award-winning photographer and freelance writer with articles published in national publications such as Woman’s Day, Raw Food Magazine, and Vegetarian Times. Fabianna was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Oncology Medical Convention in Las Vegas, NV. She was named the National Association of Professional Women’s Woman of the Year 2017. Fabianna was a featured survivor in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer’s national advertising campaign. She has an established social media presence with over 30,000 followers. In April of 2017, Fabianna was crowned Miss Pink 2017, where women compete for a cause and fight for a cure. She recently joined the Women’s Choice Awards Blogger Board where she helps to empower women to make smart choices. Fabianna resides in southern New Hampshire with her husband Dave, tutu-wearing teenage daughter Mackenzie, and Prince the wonder dog. Follow her at www.DrFabiannaMarie.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DrFabiannaMarie.