By Brit Rosenfeld
Jan 16, 2021,
I’ve spent most of my life feeling sick. From the time I was as young as 7, I started having issues with my blood sugar. From there, it spiraled into other things like chronic fatigue, constant strep throat, asthma, unexplained fainting spells, and digestive issues. Feeling like shit was something I thought was just genetic bad luck, and it would always be this way for me. Eventually, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 28. It was like I had been training for this my whole life.
I am a breast cancer survivor.
Like a mantra, that sentence seemed to pop up every day during treatment and for years after. Whether in conversation or just in my head. My life consisted of doctor appointments, treatments, phone calls, messages with other survivors, and internet searches about things I could do to heal my body. It took up almost all of my time.
After chemo treatments were over, there was still radiation and several surgeries on the horizon. It was years before cancer wasn’t center stage in the broadway musical of thoughts in my head. Even still, it plays a supporting role. My scars (both visible and invisible) and flat chest are a constant reminder of the journey I’ve taken so far, and a lot of my daily habits center around keeping myself and my family healthy. What I didn’t realize during my treatment was that, for me, the actual healing process wasn’t my medical treatment (although there is value in this part of the journey). It was something much deeper. What stood in my way of healing was the fear that came up when I asked myself the question:
“Who am I if I’m not sick?”
The “Breast Cancer Survivor” badge automatically makes you inspirational and a hero in other’s eyes. I was afraid I couldn’t live up to the label. I was afraid of being vulnerable and facing the ugly parts of my past and present. I was afraid of being rejected by the world for who I truly am. It was too easy to hide behind what had happened to me and the label that comes with it. When I realized that “breast cancer survivor” isn’t my identity, and who I am, without any labels, is enough, I was able to let go and really start to dig into the healing process.
I was afraid of being vulnerable and facing the ugly parts of my past and present.
Trauma is something we all experience to varying degrees. Whether it’s stage 4 cancer or something else, our identity can become wrapped up like a giant burrito when trauma happens. In a way, it’s like protecting ourselves from the uncertainty of healing. Unwrapping the burrito is scary and messy. All the parts spill out and go everywhere. And then what?
When I realized that this trauma wasn’t who I was, I started seeing cancer as my body’s way of telling me it needed something. It was like a radio call to a ship’s captain that something needs to be done or the ship might sink. It was the realization that I am not my cancer, but I am an observer. As the observer, I had choices: become my illness and lose myself in everything that comes with it, or see my illness as separate from myself, answer the radio call, do whatever I can to try and fix the issue (or at least improve the situation), and keep going.
I am the captain, not the ship.
I am me, not breast cancer.
It isn’t always easy, but I choose to separate myself from my illness. Oh, how I wish it were this happy-rainbow-in-the-sky-glittery feeling all the time. It is that sometimes, but it’s also HARD, and sometimes it is really terrifying and really uncomfortable. There is no shortcut. The only way to get through it is to keep going through the tears, doubt, tumbles, and scrapes. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Unpack the uglies. Just keep going. When I did that, I noticed something. Not only was I feeling healthier overall, but I was also happier, more comfortable with who I am, and more confident, even when things get difficult.
Separating myself from my illness is not the same as ignoring that it happened or ignoring the trauma it caused. That wouldn’t be helpful either. I still see it. I know it happened. I acknowledge its presence, and I work every day to keep my body as healthy as possible and learn as many lessons as I can, but I no longer think of cancer as who I am.
I am the captain, not the ship.
“The key moment in making any change is going from being it to observing it.”Dr. Joe Dispenza
You can find out more about Brit and her work by visiting her website, The Intuitive Bee.
- 4 medium red bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, then stem, seeds, and membranes removed (600 g)
- 1 cup raw almonds (140 g)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar (60 ml)
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced (8 g)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and the stem from each. Place the peppers cut side down on the baking sheet.
- When the oven reaches temperature, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are nice and charred.
- Take the peppers out of the oven and allow them to cool until you can touch them without burning your fingers. Peel and discard the skin off the peppers and transfer the peppers to your food processor, along with the almonds, vinegar, garlic, smoked paprika, and salt.
- Process the mixture until everything is mixed up and the almonds are in tiny little pieces. You can process it longer for a smoother sauce, but we like to leave it like this for the yummy texture of the almond pieces.
- Serving suggestion: Spread Romesco Sauce onto toast and add some arugula. Top with avocado, tomato, and sauerkraut.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with being the captain.