This is a follow-up to Mary’s ongoing cancer journey. Find the first part here.
“Last week, Ian and I escaped to Maine. We spent hours sitting at the edge of a cliff, watching the tide twist and bubble up to shore. The air was cool, but not too cold. The breeze was clean and tasted of salt; the gulls were the only music I listened to. It was honestly the perfect trip.
One day, we collected rocks and laughed like children. For hours. No TV, no phones, no news. My soul was quiet for the first time in…I can’t remember, honestly.
On this trip, I realized just how much noise I hold in my head. For the first few days, I couldn’t settle down without reaching for my phone. If conversation paused or there was a gap in planned activities, I would scroll through Facebook or check election updates. Even on a fancy date with my husband, I kept the dang thing near me, and on vibrate.
What was I afraid of missing? The most beautiful things in the world were all around me. My thumb is so dang accustomed to pulling down the screen to refresh my news feed, I swear I’ve trained my brain to do the same.
Like…okay, I’ve seen this…feed me something new! Okay, I’ve heard this…feed me something new! Give me cat memes and political arguments and Kelan reacting to recipes. Anything to keep my brain busy!
It’s not that I needed to be entertained, God’s creations were stunning all around me. It’s not that I needed to feel less alone, my husband was by my side.
The truth is, I wanted to feel distracted. Because when the world is quiet enough to hear my own thoughts, I realize things aren’t okay.
Y’all, I am scared.
I’ve gone two-thirds of the way through my cancer journey, and you’d think the hardest part was behind me. I had a reduction that resulted in a diagnosis, and the diagnosis that resulted in a mastectomy.
The final act, God willing, is my reconstruction—which, by the way, is scheduled for Thursday.
I hadn’t thought about it much, that is…until my last day in Maine. That day, I left my phone at the hotel, because I knew God was pulling something up to the surface. Something I needed to feel, and not be distracted from. Something I needed to speak out loud, first to my husband, and now, to you.
Here it is: all this time, I’ve made fun of my ‘frankenboobs’ because they were just part of the journey. I knew I was a work in progress, and no matter how bad I felt…I took comfort in the fact I wasn’t stuck forever with these clunky, ugly breasts.
But on Thursday, I have to face the reality that this is the end of the journey. Whatever I wake up to, or whatever I wake up with—that will be my new body. There is no next phase, there is no going back.
Cancer took its toll, and I wanted to be okay with it. But I’m not. I’m heartbroken. I wanted to be strong about it, but I’m not. I’m sad. I wanted to be a pillar of body confidence and tell the world it doesn’t matter what happens to your body, because it’s what’s inside that counts.
But even though I believe that with all my heart, I can’t stand to look at my chest anymore. Will this surgery solve that problem? Or will I always feel insecure and sad?
If I’m even more vulnerable, and a thousand percent honest, I feel like I’ve lost some kind of value as a human. Like, thank God I’m with my husband, because he loves me enough not to care. But what if something were to happen to him? Who is gonna want a pincushion woman with plastic boobs? You don’t have to tell me that’s ridiculous. I know it, but it’s how I feel.
I can’t tie this up in a neat little bow right now. Even though I know exactly how I could. I could tell y’all God whispered to me and told me I’m worth so much more than my appearance, but lately, I haven’t heard those whispers.
I’ve heard noise, because noise is what I’ve been feeding myself. Noise has become my treatment plan.
But noise makes a terrible Band-Aid.
I’ll be quieter than usual for the next few days. Mostly, because I’m scared as crap. Also, because I’m needing the kind of quiet in my soul that lets the ocean rush in. I need the peace of salty air, so I can hear myself process these things.
I’m back home in Florida, surrounded by my babies, but I think I can still find that space. I just need to lean into my family, into God’s word, and into the truth I am more than this body.
I am stepping into the quiet, as much as I can, and praying these worries might fall away…perhaps like those pumpkin-colored maple leaves fell all over the city streets of Portland.
Please pray for me, and know I need y’all. I read your comments. I cherish each and every one of you.
But I’m a truth teller, and right now this is my truth: I am scared and the noise isn’t helping.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mary Katherine Backstrom. Follow Mary on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best stories here.
Read more stories from Mary here:
‘I have a loving husband. My life is a fairytale. I should be smiling. I have no sob story to garner support.’: Mom suffering from depression gets real about mental health stigmas
‘185. That’s my number. It is what pops up on the scale when I decide it’s time to torture myself. I stress-ate after being diagnosed with breast cancer.’
‘Yesterday I hired a babysitter so I could cry and eat my Reese’s Pieces in the shower alone. That’s not fine. Can we all be honest? Sometimes things are not fine.’
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