Bernadette is a breast cancer survivor who had the opportunity to have a free underwater healing session with Erena Shimoda. We have partnered with Erena to give this experience to 10 more survivors. Read on to learn more about the project and Bernadette's story. Click here to contribute.
Four days before my 34th birthday, I was diagnosed with stage 1, triple negative breast cancer. Honestly, when I first heard "triple negative," I thought that was a good thing. Clearly, I was wrong. After that, I was all about "what's next"? I had to figure out how to tell my loved ones, because I didn't live in the same city as any of my closest friends or family. I told most people over the phone or e-mail, but I got sick and tired of having to tell the same thing to so many people over, and over, and over again, so for everyone else, I just put a post on Facebook. It might sound cold, but it was easy, and the truth is, when you're diagnosed with cancer, what's easiest really is what's best.
During chemo, I had the odd fear, which I talked to my oncologist about, but other than that, I was okay. It was only when other breast cancer patients asked my diagnosis that I was really afraid - just from their reaction to my triple negative status. When I eventually entered "remission," I was in denial. I didn't like the word remission, and although it was comforting to know that there was no evidence of disease then, I actually found this "new normal" more frightening than the treatment phase. Since then, my biggest struggle has been to actually start living again. Now that my appointments are only a couple times a year, I need to let go of cancer...but I don't think there will ever be a "post-cancer" phase for me. I know that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who was diagnosed at stage one, but because of my diagnosis, there is always that chance.
I relate my cancer experience to jumping out of my comfort zone and jumping into something unknown. I figured if I could take chemo (like a boss, I might add), I could pretty much do anything. So when I learned about the Underwater Healer - About Face
campaign, I jumped at the opportunity to try something new like this - to again jump into the unknown, but this time, by my own will.
As I'm not located on the West Coast of the US, I wasn't able to participate in the campaign but The IHadCancer team and Erena worked hard to find a way for me to have these sessions anyway. I traveled to San Francisco for the session, and as the photos were being taken, I wasn't sure how they would turn out or even if any would be worth using. But when Erena showed me afterward, I was surprised. Not surprised at her talent, as she is clearly extremely talented, but at how great the session translated into these amazing photos and how I felt as I was looking back at them. After having so many surgeries and needle pokes, the session with Erena made me realize that I am a beautiful, strong woman - and that was an incredible realization. View Bernadette's photos here.
I loved every moment of it and am so thankful to be a part of something so amazing - I only hope that enough money gets raised so that the 10 West Coast survivors are also able to have this opportunity. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience that I'll never forget.
There are two ways you can help make this happen: