In the United States, 1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The I’m Loving Me Project wants to provide support and encouragement to all women worldwide battling breast cancer, chronic illness and have survived domestic violence.
Three days before her 45th birthday, Natasha Anderson was told, “You have cancer.” She is the third member on her mother’s side family to have suffered, battled, and survived breast cancer. Sixteen years before this devastating news, she grieved the loss of her son, which was the foundation of her strength to overcome yet another unexpected season of grief and pain.
For the past two years, Natasha’s commitment to sharing her journey continues to impact women either diagnosed with Breast Cancer or supporting a loved-on through it.
“I had cancer. Cancer NEVER had ME! My take away message is early detection saves lives, as I’m living and breathing proof of that! Know your normal, know your body, and any changes get it CHECKED! I am a breast cancer SURVIVOR and proud.”Natasha Anderson
It’s okay to feel.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s also okay to lovingly encourage yourself through your process.
Here are uplifting tips from Natasha regarding six commonly asked questions for those who are either receiving or recovering from treatment.
1. It’s OK to ask questions – We trust doctors because we are conditioned to believe that they are the experts. Oncologists deal with cancer patients daily, so we think, who are we to question them? When you get the news that you have Cancer, your mind goes blank, and you have no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen. It is perfectly normal to ask all and any questions you may and will have. By asking the doctors questions, you become the advocate for YOUR body in the process of your recovery.
2. It’s OK to show all your emotions – Through this journey, no two days are going to be the same. It is perfectly normal to laugh one day, then cry the next. We fall victim to hiding our feelings to avoid any additional stress to your loved ones. Cancer impacts your life, not only physically but emotionally and psychologically as well. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions. Your body will change, and your body will be in pain, but through it, all focus on the care of your mental health. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions, your fears, your worries, your sense of losing control, and all other possible feelings. It’s OK to honor your feelings, and if necessary, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
3. It’s OK to grieve – For many women, hair becomes a part of our identity. Losing your hair is one of the most common possible side effects of chemo and radiotherapy. Yet compared to let’s say nausea, losing your hair is manageable. For many, losing their hair is a grieving process, but remember, your outward appearance does not define who you are.
Do not forget that this process does not define who you are.
Consider the decision of shaving your hair, instead of allowing the side effects of radiation and chemo. However you decide to own your story, do it.
“I chose to rock my bald head for all the ladies out there because this is my story, this is my song, this is who I am, and most importantly, I have a bald head because I had cancer and I’m alive.”Natasha Anderson
4. It is OK to do what’s best for you – Family members and friends are an important part of your journey. They love us, cheer us on during our battle, and are amazing through our treatment and recovery. They want to heal us, protect us, and keep us safe. With that in mind, they will give you advice on what to do or not do. The reality is, you know your body best, therefore, listen to it. Be unapologetic for doing whatever you feel and believe is right for you to do. There will be days that after treatment you would like to climb a mountain. There will also be days that after treatment, you would like to climb into your bed and rest. However you’re led, do it. You have to do what will make you feel better. During my recovery journey, even on days when I wanted to go to bed, I chose to go for walks in the park because I knew my body needed fresh air and be with nature.
Sis, It’s OK to do what you want to do.
5. It’s OK to ask for help – After Natasha finished chemo in August 2019, she kept having side effects from her treatment. The real recovery begins after finishing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments. The side effects will eventually go away during and after the entire process. However, you must allow yourself the time to heal. Recovery will mean different things to different people. For that reason, you must do what feels right to you. Getting help from a mental health professional is equally as important during treatment as much as after. Make sure to celebrate every milestone, even if you think it’s little. Celebrate when you finish chemo. Celebrate after surgery. Celebrate on the day you see hair growing back! Remember to celebrate that stubborn hair on your chin that stayed with you during chemo.
6. It’s OK to share your story – This journey will be emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining. There are women around the world who love you and support you because they have been where you are now. When you speak to others who have gone through the same journey as you, they just get it. There are communities both digitally and physically available for you to find support from others going through breast cancer.
Natasha created a digital community in the UK for women of color to share their stories, encouraging women to get checked because early detection is a key.
It’s OK to share your story. There are men and women who need to hear from you.
Natasha lives in London and has been able to go back to work as a school nurse. She is a strong advocate for early detection because it is key to the success of surviving breast cancer. She will be two years cancer-free in November 2020.
To fulfill her passion for helping others, she runs the Instagram page @BlackBaldNBeautiful, which is a support group for women of color who have been touched by breast and other types of cancer. Her goal is to launch a community project to provide support once a month to others currently battling cancer and survivors. All are welcome into this community regardless of ethnicity because no one should go through this journey alone!