"I don't know who I am anymore...."   |   Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"I don't know who I am anymore...." A common quote from many women that we see at The Oldham Project studios. Some refer to it as "chemo brain", some say they've "lost themselves." Kate is no different, except, she is recognizing it and attempting to face it head on through writing and journaling about her cancer battle.

A professional writer, this comes naturally to her, but she encourages all women to 'write' their way through cancer... documenting feelings, thoughts and fears. So, I thought, who better to tell her story here, than her?

"It’s About Me" 
Since the cancer hammer slammed into my consciousness last July, it seems that all has been about me: “How are you feeling? I had a friend who had cancer, and she…,” This friendly question most times was followed by …and her hair grew back in really curly. “Lie still, flat on your back, and we’ll do the rest, including a rubber band wrap around your feet, so you don’t fall.” I really think it was to keep me from a slow roll and frog leap off the steel slab. “Big poke.” Whoa! That was no poke. It symbolized the entry gate for thousands of poisonous mercenaries’ steady stream into me, poised to kill both military and civilians. All these gestures and procedures and more sent to comfort and cure me, I knew in my brain (or what seemed left of it), but I remained scared, scarred, lost, overwhelmed, and unconfident about me. 
I had heard about the Oldham Project from a couple of times over the last year, and thought that I did not want fancy makeup, nor a bald picture as a reminder of 2011-2012. Then, I ran into a friend at the East Lansing Art Festival, and she commented on my cute hair style. I hesitated, and then told her that my hair was just a grow-back, and that I had breast cancer. She blinked, hugged me, and said that she, too, had been diagnosed. I learned because this healthy, vibrant woman shared with me her dirty secret that if I could share what seemed a shameful ugly truth of my own, the sting could begin to cool. After this friend and I caught up on children, etc, and were about to part, she mentioned the Oldham Project. I protested that my hair was growing back, and I was feeling better, so no need now. She said, “It’s not too late, check it out.” 
The next day, I googled the website, and mustered the courage to make contact. I briefly told my last year’s experience, and clicked on “send. Within ten minutes I received a compassionate phone call from Terri Shaver who set up an appointment for the next week to be made-up at Douglas J, and to go to her studio right after. Terri was so positive and kind on the phone that any reluctance that I had to a face paint and photo of a short-haired version of a previously bald woman like me disappeared. I looked forward to the event. 
The big day arrived. The make-up session was pleasurable, and I traveled to the studio where Terri waved a welcome, then rushed to my car to help me carry in my clothes and props. What a breathtaking greeting. We talked briefly, and she began to spin her incredible spell. 
The gift Terri Shaver gave to me that day, a breast cancer victim, not only because she is a skilled photographer, transferred me to hope for my life through her lens of empathy. Her up-and-down and round-about movements and constant reinforcement transformed me (in my mind) that day from an ugly duckling to a modest swan. I am no longer a body with a chance for survival, but a whole soul person who will endeavor to beat this cancer demon through a living a life, mind and body in this world, up to my optimum completion. It is about me. "

She's planning to write a book about walking through cancer and hopefully returning to work in the fall. She's "finding herself" through writing and encourages all women who read this, cancer or no cancer to document your feelings and thoughts... document your life. You'll look back on this time and realize what a brave thing you've done, what courage you'll have to go through anything.... what you have learned about yourself.


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