December 29, 2003 found me waiting in my doctors’ office, dressed in a gown that added no warmth. I listened to papers crinkling at what felt like blistering volumes, as I restlessly squirmed on the examination table. After what seemed like hours, the doctor walked into the room and told me that I had cancer. Just like that. Cancer. I could barely grasp the meaning of her words.
It’s been almost 13 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a recurrence a few years after my initial diagnosis, and I now live with metastatic disease. Some would call me a walking miracle. Why? Because, although I haven’t given them much credence, the statics aren’t in my favor. I have a fierce determination to live and I know that having a positive attitude, as well as laughing as much as I can, have been two critical components in helping me heal-as simple as that sounds.
Choosing to use traditional medicine; chemotherapy and radiation, I knew that it was necessary to add holistic therapy to my treatment. I was Reiki trained, and that was one of my first “tools” to implement.
I also continued my practice of meditation, journaling, and acupuncture. My oncologist’s belief was that western medicine was the key factor in my healing, but I knew these alternative practices helped my body, as well as my mind, heal.
Living with cancer has been a crazy ride. There are times I want to cry, crawl into my fears, and scream in anger. Over the years, I’ve realized that ignoring these emotions doesn’t work for me. I’ve learned to allow myself to feel all the good, as well as all the bad. I limit my time that I sit with these emotions, if not, it’d be easy to be pulled into the darkness.
Wait, did I mention laughter? My husband, Bob, is a very creative man, and he devised a way to self-heal, in the process helping me as I live with cancer. He’s a commercial and fine art photographer and began photographing himself in a pink tutu. Yes, you read that correctly-a pink tutu!
I’m frequently asked what my reaction was when he put the tutu on for the first time. What else could I do but…. laugh! I also applauded him for discovering a way to work through his fears and frustrations with not just my diagnosis, but also his demons.
This series of photographs led us to create The Tutu Project™, which went viral almost as soon as we created a Facebook page, and it’s now a global brand. To our amazement, these images have inspired not just the breast cancer community, but countless others as they face challenges in their lives.
Through the sale of “tutu” themed products, as well as individual and corporate donations, we were able to start The Carey Foundation, a 501(c) 3 that financially supports women and men diagnosed with this disease.
When I was first diagnosed, a woman told me that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her. While I can’t say that I share her specific enthusiasm, I can certainly say that breast cancer, and subsequently The Tutu Project have brought many, many phenomenal people into my life, and along with them, tremendous strength in numbers. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.