Lisa Bunting: Making peace with being perfectly imperfect
I was recovering at home from a concussion when I inadvertently discovered a lump in my breast. The memory lapses caused by the head trauma made me almost forget to mention it to my doctor. When I did, I’m grateful he took me seriously. While he was not overly concerned, he arranged for an ultrasound and a mammogram, which led to a biopsy.
“It’s treatable, stage 0,” he said after reading me the results. It turns out I was a good candidate for a “skin-sparing” mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. Unfortunately, in the ten weeks it took to schedule the surgery, the tumour developed into Stage 1 invasive cancer. Following the eight-hour procedure, despite a beautifully reconstructed breast, I now required chemotherapy followed by radiation.
Although my treatments weren’t easy, Wellspring helped me get through them with a spirit of positivity and gratitude. When they were over, I was so grateful to be alive that all I wanted to do was dance with friends.
But the celebration was short-lived. First, I developed COVID-19 and had to self-isolate for 20 days. Then, I was diagnosed with lymphedema and, at the same time, began experiencing unrelenting pain in my breast. This led to three more surgeries, two to deal with infections, which left my beautiful new breast misshapen. All told, within a year and a half, I had four new versions of a right breast, grieving each one. Having also buried my mother during this time, I was experiencing overwhelming waves of sadness.
The seemingly endless medical complications challenged my ability to retain a positive outlook. Wellspring was such a help through this part of my journey. The art therapy and journaling programs profoundly benefited me, and the exercise program helped me reclaim my strength, stability, and stamina, and quell my often-overwhelming anxieties. Wellspring also helped me make peace with being “perfectly imperfect”. I felt like I was part of an extraordinary community, supported by people who understood me and could help me get through whatever came next.
Today, I feel blessed, as though the universe designed all of this to happen for a reason. First, my concussion slowed me down enough to discover the lump in my breast. Then, Wellspring helped me recover after so much trauma. I was able to open myself up to an old friend and fellow cancer survivor who has since become my romantic partner, and with him I have now entered the third and happiest chapter of my life. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned in a play called My Right Breast: A Love Story.
What message do I hope to impart by sharing my story? Examine your breasts, ladies. To quote my Wellspring friend, Laurie, “It’s always worth fighting for boobs.”