July 25, 2013

Scared for LIFE, Forever Empowered

myHeart asked Ann Marie Otis for permission to share one of her recent blog posts on our blog to further the reach of her lived experience to our readership in the hope that others who have not faced a cancer personally might take a few steps toward REALLY ‘getting it’, or at the very least, take a step towards a better understanding.

Ann Marie, may you know that though you may struggle with fear, you are never alone [and] you become more and more empowered as you empower other women by being brave with your LIFE: Thank you!

Ann Marie posted this to her blog on June 13, 2013:

“This blog post has been in my head which is a scary place for a while now, maybe even since the day I was diagnosed. I need for those who do not ‘get it’ to maybe really see it. Cancer changes you there is no doubt. The changes are physical and emotional which makes for a very intense journey.

It takes your body and mutilates, deforms, scars and transforms it into a foreign being.  It takes what you knew to be you and makes it into someone else. It is really like living in someone else’s body. I cannot express to you how scary this is to live in a body that you don’t know and can’t even feel.

Wrapped up not knowing what to expect is so frightening. I was in shock and needed to see what the doctors tell you,  yet never show you. They show you what you those great pictures of what you will look like after, but never during the reconstructive process.

Frightening Firsts

Frightening Firsts

I sought out webpages like Scar Project to show me what was going to happen to me. I was empowered by these women and their strength. I needed to see their scars, their tears and their support to be able to see that I was going to heal.  I found Kerry Mansfield and  [I] cried hard. I was talking to Alissa at 1am and freaking out that my body was going to do that! How can this be happening? How was I going to be ok? I was scared yet comforted by these images. It took the unknown out of the picture for me.  She was still standing, she was alive, and she was stronger now.

I had no idea what was going to happen after this but these pictured helped me beyond words. When Genevieve Fridley took them it was helping me even then. We had no idea what we were going to do with them or if we would ever show them.

I kept thinking of the images I saw and how they helped me, could these pictures help others? “My Journey Through the Lumps” was then created. Over 550 people came to see all the graphic, uncensored pictures and we raised over $12,000.00. Who would have thought?  I was vulnerable revealing myself like that yet empowered at the same time.

I wanted and still want people to see what the real side to cancer is; I wanted them to see the pain because I didn’t “look sick”. I am lucky that Genevieve isn’t just an amazing photographer but one of my best friends. My girlfriend Karen looked at me and said “I had no idea what you went through”. That was exactly the message I want to send.

The change in my body has been an intense reality that confronts me every day. I try on my clothes and they don’t fit the same. It isn’t just the weight that I have gained because of cancer, nothing like losing body parts yet gaining 20 pounds. It is about the scars that hurt so badly, the alien body that is now mine, and the loss of feeling in my breasts.

I do not feel sexy or sexual, cancer changed that. Having a full hysterectomy did not help. I feel like a hollow woman with no feeling in her breasts. When the boys are asleep at night and Tom is snoring next me I cry, a lot. I hate what cancer has done to my body and my friends. I cry because there was nothing I can do about it. I am healing and that is a long process. These images are showing that the scars take time to heal; it doesn’t happen overnight. They also show strength, courage and power:  NOT porn, never porn.

Healing is what the images are healing and anyone that thinks otherwise is a dumb a**.

Thank you Facebook, David Jay, Scorchy Barrington, and all the woman who live with these scars. This is what the pink ribbon should be about: this is awareness; this is LIFE. It is now my reality and I am making a difference with my pink breast friends next to me. This to me proves that stupid dumb breast cancer will never have me! After all my tiara didn’t fall off once, I remain a princess with a pink boa and stilettos and a whole different look on life.”

Personally, I want to thank Ann Marie for her vulnerability, her transparency, and her commitment to present the unvarnished reality. I have had opportunity to befriend many within the breast cancer social media community and I will be the first to confess that I have walked away changed because of what these women have faced and continue to face on a daily basis.

This adult survivor will forever stand heart in hand with women like Ann Marie in saying, ‘We are NOT cancer.’


Thanks SO much, Ann Marie, for allowing us to share your writing, your lived experience on our blog: what a privilege!

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