Each year the pink starts to illuminate as October 1st approaches. Retailers increase stock in pink paraphernalia, especially pink ribbon paraphernalia. Businesses begin to rally, calling to the universe for a cure for cancer. There is an element of europhia seeing seas of Pink, even on sports teams and networks. While others bask in the feeling of supporting loved ones, I was suffering. Quietly suffering alone in my own thoughts. I was wondering how to manage this void created by a cancer diagnosis, double mastectomy, chemotherapy, indefinite quarterly MRIs, as many clinical trials as possible and I still don't know what's next. When does the healing start? When will things go back to normal?
"While others bask in the feeling of supporting loved ones, I was suffering."
The reality was so hard for me to grasp, that I just started writing about the entire journey. Covid's restrictions forced me to find another way to manage the ongoing anxiety I face knowing that my wife, Tomika Bryant, was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2013. Although the cancerous cells are not detectable or dormant there is no cure. This year I made a commitment to celebrate and live during October for the first time in 7 years. Retracing the events over the last seven years was emotional, but it allowed me a sense of freedom. Journaling is a therapeutic tool that allows us to release ideas, concepts and even thoughts that could be limiting our ability to live life.
The writing became so extensive that it became my first novel. I was so happy when the draft was completed, but as Tomika started reading the early drafts she became angry. She did not understand the pain I was feeling and what the anxiety was doing to me mentally. Those thoughts I shared openly in the book, were just now becoming real for my family.
We tend to focus our attention on the survivors only, but there is little resource for those going through that journey with the patient. Additionally, because of mental health stigmas it is less likely for co-survivors to seek the support they need. YSC literally invited me to several co-survivor events, and excluding Tour de Pink (that I am sorrowfully missing this year) I discarded those invitations. I didn't want to acknowledge my pain, nor engage in dialogue, as the breast cancer dialogue was on my mind constantly.
Co-Survivor is a realistic fictional portrayal of what it is like enduring life while watching someone you love go through the management of the Breast Cancer diagnosis. It will fill you with various emotions, as you relate to ebb and flow of emotions in reaching various milestones until you reach the bell-ringing conclusion. Even after the book was complete, I realized that I still had more within me. I started writing poetry, which I do consistently. But prior to this year, I never wrote specifically about Breast Cancer. Writing was my cure.
Writing has helped me, what has helped you?
Co-survivors, we're here for you
YSC offers information and programs just for the community of co-survivors. Join our private Facebook Group for Co-Survivors or peer-led monthly virtual hangouts (one for male co-survivors and one for moms of young breast cancer survivors). View recorded resources from our prior Summits and Regional Symposia as well as dedicated resources for Co-Survivors on our website.