It’s Not About Surviving, It’s About Living!

So often we think about life in terms of befores and afters. On a large scale we talk about life before Columbine, and life after. Life before 911, life after. On July 21, 2008 when I got the news that I had breast cancer, my life became divided into two main chapters, life before cancer and life after.

I had decisions to make and paths to choose. I was lucky to have the support of friends and family. Of course the timing couldn’t have been worse. I know, when is the timing for something like this ever good? My co-author and I were in the midst of writing “Teenage as a Second Language”, my husband had just started traveling frequently for his job, and in addition to my position running the child and adolescent partial programs at the hospital, I had signed on again at Pace University to teach another semester of graduate level psychology at night. Of course there was also my private practice and job as soccer mom. Boy was I frustrated and angry! I mean I did not have time to do this cancer thing!

But, I acclimated. I got used to the idea of minor surgery and then radiation. So much for that! The “minor” surgery resulted in the revelation that radiation would not be enough, I was headed for chemo and more surgery.

So, I made a choice, I let all the anger and frustration fuel me to push forward! I would be damned if I was going to give anything up! I was lucky though, I had a network of wonderful family and friends begging to help me. They all caught on quickly though. You see, it’s no coincidence that my chosen profession is in a helping field. I was used to offering help, not receiving it, not just in my work either. So, they stopped asking me if I needed help and started pushing me to tell them what I needed help with. My next door neighbor and friend, organized a meal drop, my in-laws arrived to watch the kids after every chemo treatment. My own parents, who lived far away came in to take over for several weeks after my surgery. My husband, well he should certainly be sainted! He stepped in and took over the household. Although he was traveling he was able to schedule his trips on my “off” weeks from chemo. My brother and oncologist at Johns Hopkins served as medical liason. He translated the medical stuff I couldn’t begin to try to understand. In addition he kept in touch with my team of doctors. My immediate family, my extended family, they all stepped up with support and love.

The crisis is now long over and the aftermath has been amazing! The lessons I’ve learned are simple, it is not just about surviving, it’s about living! The world seems brighter and more brilliant. I appreciate my family and friends more than ever before. The journey can be difficult but once you know where you are going you learn to truly enjoy the ride!

I used writing as a coping skill during my battle. I leave you all with a piece that really best explains it all. I’m just a woman wearing many hats, playing different roles, a woman who was lucky enough to fight the battle and win.

1 in 8

According to the American Cancer Society, one in 8 women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime.

One in eight.
That’s who I am.
I am the one.
One in eight
Others call me brave and courageous
They say I am amazing!
But they don’t know.
One in eight
I am many things.
I am a wife, a mother, a professional woman
I am
One in eight
I am your daughter, sister, your mother, your next door neighbor.
I am your co-worker, your boss, I am your friend.
I am the soccer mom you chat with while the other team has the ball and your child is playing offense.
I am a professor, a supervisor, a colleague, a peer
I am one in eight
I am the woman to whom you offer support
A card, a family meal, words of encouragement
I am one in eight
I am the one for whom you wear the pink ribbon or walk for the cause
The truth be told
You say what you mean and mean what you say
All the long knowing that I am the one in eight
And behind close doors you talk or whisper amongst yourselves those heartfelt sorrys about me being the one in eight
And in reality what you are thinking, what you may not say out loud, is that
While my strength may inspire you, my will to carry on as if I am not the one, may lead you to tell me and others with whom you talk that I am strong and bold
You are very grateful that you are number two or three while
am the one in eight

Dr. Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder is a clinical psychologist specializing in work with children, tweens,teens, and their parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual and co-creator of She is a columnist and contributor on teen issues and is regularly called upon by both national and international media outlets for consultation. Jennifer is a breast cancer survivor who lives by the motto: “It’s not about surviving, it’s about living.”

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