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Back to School: A Lesson in Self Care

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2011, my life went into a tailspin worse than Darth Vader’s TIE fighter at the end of Star Wars: Episode IV.  BC (Before Cancer), I was the stay at home mom who volunteered in classrooms, went on field trips, and baked.  AD (After Diagnosis) was life-altering in the sense that anything that could go wrong, did.  Everything that should have been simple was a complete disaster.  I was rendered non-functional with every vile side-effect from multiple kinds of chemo and then some.  There was no doing much of anything, but spending that entire year very near death and able to do nothing more than breathe.

A Harsh Reality

I wasn’t able to maintain any semblance of normal functionality during that year.  Everyday demands were not met – I just couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t able to do anything but be slammed into the reality that my limitations went well beyond anything I could have imagined upon being diagnosed.  I endured six months of chemo, had a bilateral mastectomy, followed by another six months of chemo.  Little did I know, being able to face head-on that I could “own” being shaped so differently after surviving a year of chemo and such a disfiguring surgery was very important. My life and appearance is very different now.  In spite of that, even though I’ve had no breast reconstruction and am concave in my chest area, I have been told I am the epitome of feminine empowerment by my son’s schoolmates because I was finally able to gain confidence and “own” being the way I am now.

Understanding my new life

After that year of chemo, I was able to start doing the things I used to do.  I went back to volunteering in the classroom and for sports events, and eventually, baking again.  On a smaller scale than BC (Before Cancer) but still, I was able to do what I could, when I could, as a volunteer.  And now, I know that my example of trying to be as functional as possible made an impact for not just myself, but I also learned I became an example of a woman who was strong and confident. Young ladies my son went to school with viewed me as a positive role model without body shaming me for appearing so different.

Self-care is very important and doesn’t mean someone is lazy. We all need to take the time to stop and rest, or just “be” for a time, be it thirty minutes, an hour, or even two.  Cancer rips everything away from us.  Self-care in the form of resting or “be-ing” can be a help by finding a few minutes to take that back.

Stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to be the BC you.

A limitation I’ve had to learn and accept about myself is that I will never regain the functionality I once had.  I’m five years out from completing that chemo.  Like Sansa Stark said, “I’m a slow learner, it’s true.  But I learn.”

I learned.  I learned people were just happy I was able to volunteer when I could and do what I could.  More importantly, I learned my sons were happy I was able to finally find my way back into some semblance of confidence.  Even more importantly, I learned they don’t love me for how much or how little I can accomplish.  That wasn’t something I could have learned in any school.  I had to learn it for myself after a year of chemo that self-care is a good thing.  Yes, I’m a slow learner.  But I learned.


  • Show Comments (2)

  • Lori

    Kelly, thank you! You described everything I am feeling. I was diagnosed in 2015 with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Double mastectomy and 9 rounds of chemo. Now life after BC. I’m feeling stuck. I can’t seem to find my new “normal”. My boys are older and I am not feeling needed anymore. So, now I am learning to find my new self. But why do I feel like I am failing?

  • Kelli Lowry

    Lori, you are welcome. Please don’t feel like you’re failing. It’s difficult to figure out which direction to go in or what to do after something like this. Our Selfness is different than it was, but it’s not easy to figure that out and figure out how to work with it. Huge hugs and best of luck to you.

    If you want to reach out to me, you can do so through here. Huge hugs.


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