Meet Jessica. She’s a single mother of two wild boys (her words not ours *wink*), lover of dogs, extroverted introvert, avid runner, and breast cancer survivor. What makes Jessica a trailblazer is how she took tragic news and turned it into an opportunity to find herself.
Jessica noticed a lump in 2019. It was July when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She started chemo and was blindsided by the nausea, headaches, and fatigue that came with it. Her love for running was stripped away from her for days at a time until she made slight recoveries that allowed her to return to being active.
Running, along with lots and lots of humor, allowed her to regain a sense of normalcy and kept her head clear of negativity. One month after her last chemo infusion, she celebrated by running a marathon with two friends. They dedicated each mile to a breast cancer survivor and told their stories along the way—making the last mile her own. She ran hard that last mile without complaints. “I will never forget the feeling of crossing that finish line. I felt free for the first time since my diagnosis. I felt like me—someone I thought I had lost along the way. But no, I was still there, I was always there.”
So how did this journey bring her to a deeper understanding of herself?
Like anything, cancer treatment was not a sprint, but a marathon with moments of ease and of struggle that she openly shared with those around her. Jessica feels it was vulnerability that allowed her to gain confidence and truly find herself. She was determined to de-stigmatize cancer and put an end to the way others tiptoed around people experiencing it. Her desire was not sympathy, but instead empathy. The more she shared, the more her friends and family understood what her true needs were. Her relationships grew stronger. She felt seen. She felt heard. She felt supported.
It is because of her choice to speak about the realities of cancer that she has had several friends reach out when they themselves have had a scare. *Sidebar: Self-examinations are so important. Listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, get it checked out.* Since Jessica made herself an honest and safe space for others to be open, it has made all the difference to the women in her world. With her reminding them that they are brave and are strong, they now believe they can conquer anything.
Letting others truly see you does not make you weak, it uncovers the parts of you that allow others to connect and relate with you. In Jessica’s words, “vulnerability is vital.”