A poem about a breast cancer survivor

Someone shared the following poem with me. I’ve never met the artist who wrote it, but I thought it was really beautiful so I asked him if I could share it on my blog. I hope that you like it as much as I did.


Joyful Eyesight

I’ve never seen anything so beautiful
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful
I’m repeating this statement like Negro spirituals in fields
Because hope lies in the harmony
Trying to restore the harmony
She once knew
When she sang strong songs that seem off key
Maybe off balanced by the extra weight on her chest
She’s off balance
Almost fainted when she found the lump

Doctor conducted an examination
The orchestra was a tragedy
Like Brahms wrote that CT scan
Like Schubert wrote the biopsy results
Doctor offers encouraging quotes
Half empty, half full
Like whole notes and half notes
Tell me how she will feel whole
If her chest is half empty
Self worth half full
She drinks sunshine to replenish her spirit
Feeds herself scripture
Prays and stays faithful

She’s a fighter
Determined to win and not let this claim her
Modeling strength, will, and determination
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful

I’ve never seen anything so beautiful
I repeat this statement like fight songs
As she marches from concern to my arms
Like Selma to Montgomery
Feels beat, out of gas, tears falling, fear hounding her
She won’t be turned back
From believing she’ll overcome this

She takes my breath away
I can’t speak how amazing she truly is
She rubs her hands down my cheek to my throat
Finds a lump
Fingers like a surgeon’s scalpel dance along my chest
Removes my confusion
So I speak how she lives
Past the pain

I want my voice to be as powerful as you
So that when I’m on stage
You’re fighting your stage
I’m radiating eloquence
You’re going through radiation
This stage is my therapy
You’re going through chemotherapy
I’ve lost my patience with people rooted in ignorance
You’ve lost your hair
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful

Some consider it a shame
I consider it a symbol
The first amazons were from Libya
In awe of your resilient stature
I know you’re a warrior
Resolve on your face like war paint
Smile like a battle cry
I’m inspired by the will to survive in your eyes

I hold you in my arms
It’s like holding dawn
Your bald head sets against my chest
Like an evening horizon
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful

Ruling style and fashion like Caesar
D&G glasses, earrings, and a Caesar
My kisses are penance
Your laugh is my redeemer
I hang close so I can catch you if you falter
I’m just a dreamer
Recognize the glory in your makeup
Temp fade and MAC makeup
An Augusta Savage sculpture
Well crafted work of Art
I’ve never seen anything so beautiful

© 2010 Chris “Dasan Ahanu” Massenburg

Just a reminder: Feel and squeeze on your boobies!

Breast self-exams are important | My Fabulous Boobies

Give yourself a breast self-exam TODAY

Today is as good a day as any other to give yourself a BSE (breast self-exam). It only takes a few moments and is pretty painless. You have my permission to feel yourself up. (laughs)

Jokes aside… please do incorporate regular self-exams into your life. You can do them in the shower, while you’re in the bed, wherever you feel comfortable. I never thought that when Dr. Casamayou was encouraging her students at Mount Vernon College to self-examine their breasts, she was giving me the ammunition that would save my life one day. But she did. And now I am passing that ammunition to you.

Check your boobies! Do it today.

If you need instructions, check out this article on BreastCancer.org.
Read: The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

let's connect-brown

(where we discuss the breast cancer life)
(where I discuss any and everything!)
(be inspired, laugh a little, follow my crazy life)

Life after breast cancer treatment

I've been discussing a lot of the intimate details about my life after my breast cancer treatment ended. The truth is that while I'm different -- I have health issues and concerns that I didn't have 2 years ago -- I'm also very much the same. Sometimes its difficult to merge the two women that I feel I am.

It is dificult to know which woman is going to emerge in different situations. They have different emotional baggage and face life with differing motives. One feels weak and scared more often than not. The other wants to be superwoman and do everything she ever thought was possible.

Figuring out how to work with these two women is becoming a full-time job. Life continues to present me with opportunities that I probably would never have received had I not gone through this challenge. So a part of me is really excited and grateful for the twists and turns in the journey. But another part of me is still fighting deep-rooted anger and deep sadness that it took all of this -- stage 3 cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation, reconstruction -- in order for me to wake up to the possibility of a life of fulfilled dreams.

Can I hate and love something at the same time? Breast cancer ruined my body, stole my relationship, put me in debt, scared my friends and family and continues to offer physical challengs that make me want to cry some days. But breast cancer forced me to write, forced me to step out of my fear of rejection and continues to make me scream that I am here! I am here! I am here!

I still look at other survivors and wonder how they seem to manage living life so well. This disease continues to ravage my spirit (though not as often as in the past) and I keep thinking and wondering what the future holds. My appointment with my oncologist was rescheduled for early April. So, I still don't know what my my current prognosis is. I feel fine -- relatively speaking. But that is so deceptive because I felt fine before I ever found out that I had breast cancer.


I don't know. I suppose that I am still a work in progress.

Emotional ups and downs -- but SPRING is coming

This has been an interesting week. Like many other breast cancer survivors... the news of someone else's battle with cancer can send me soaring or can plummet my feelings into the abyss.  Depending upon whether they are triumphantly coming out of treatment with a great prognosis or are facing end of life issues when their cancer has been determined to be terminal.  Even when the news is about a friend of a friend of a friend, I'm still very emotional.

Cancer sucks.

That is what the shirt I'm wearing at this moment says and I wore it on purpose this morning because I learned about two people this week who are terminal with their cancer. It never stops breaking my heart. And it always makes me stop for a moment and just wonder... will that pain happen to the people in my life that I love one day? I don't know. I can't read the future any better than anyone else. I have an appointment with my oncologist next week. I have been looking forward to this appointment for a couple of months but in the past 24 hours, my mood around it has shifted into a little bit of fear.

I think that's how it is with cancer. You don't know when something will come along and remind you just how vulnerable you are... until it hits you. I've been cruising around these past few days and weeks... focusing on the future, trying to find new friends to hang with, trying to reconnect with old friends... not really thinking much about breast cancer. Well, thinking about breast cancer in a different way. My mind has been focused on how to live beyond breast cancer... and now I'm a little shook because in the blink of an eye it can be about how to die with breast cancer.

That's extreme but its possible. Two people tangentially connected to me are facing those issues right now. I'm preparing to go out in a couple of hours to hang with some good friends, eat some great food and have lots of fun. It should be an amazing night. But knowing that I'm going to see Dr. Siegel next week, and knowing that at least two more people will be lost to the world because of breast cancer... really makes me just a smidge afraid.

Life is about how you react to the situations and challenges that you are presented with. My life (at this moment) is about letting the world know that sexy and breast cancer DOES go together... and trying to leave a faint mark on the world that will remain after I'm gone.

Alright! Enough of the sappy stuff. It is a beautiful day in the DC metro area. Spring has SPRUNG... and I plan to twist, and flirt and laugh... all night long.

Smooches! (The Tidal Basin during the blossoming of the cherry trees is my ABSOLUTE-CAN'T-GET-NO-BETTER-I-LOVE-ALL-OF-THIS-TOURISTY-STUFF spot in the world. This is a stock photo, can't wait to get out there next week and take my own pictures)

Still thinking about sex after breast cancer

Still thinking about sex after breast cancer

Well, I seemed to have stirred the embers with this topic. Though only a few people were brave enough to post a comment directly to my blog, I have received quite a bit of mail on this topic. So, I’m not the only lusty chick out here wondering where did the love go and when will it return? (Laughs) I am happy to hear that.

And for all those luscious guys who have made kind offers of assistance -- (head nod) – yeah, I’m considering that. (Laughs) Expect an email or a text message soon. Soon!

But seriously, this is a touchy topic and it’s slightly embarrassing for me to discuss. I’m not the girl to talk a lot about sex. I become embarrassed and I blush and it just gets real weird/goofy/uncomfortable feeling for me. I suppose that means that I have some latent issues surrounding sexual intimacy that I might need to work on but in the meantime…

The question about sexual intimacy after breast cancer is a real one and I’ll keep diving into the topic until I figure out a resolution. The issue is bigger than me. There are millions of women right now living with the after-math of breast cancer. I’d venture a guess that many (if not most) of them would like to have or resume a healthy sex life at some point.

Once again, reading the breast cancer message boards has prodded me to understanding just how big breast cancer is and how pervasive the fear surrounding it can be. I read a few posts recently that reminded me that it’s not just the fear about sharing your new body with someone; it’s also about navigating different erogenous areas and making shifts and changes to “how” you make love with your new body.

Those of us with newly reconstructed boobies have to cope with the notion that the new boobies don’t have the old boobie’s feeling capabilities. The new boobies may not have nipples and for some of us that is a DRASTIC change from life before breast cancer.

(I am flushed and beet red right now… but I am determined to keep tackling this topic with honesty and openness)

Before breast cancer, my fairly large and luscious boobies were also super-sensitive and contributed to the enjoyment I experienced during intimate moments. Now, I’m down to just one lady in that game and pretty soon, even she will be adjusted and I don’t know how that will affect her ability to contribute to the feathery, tickly-ness that I am used to feeling in my tummy when…  you know, this is too much information for the blog. Suffice it to say, I’m gonna MISS that girl something serious. She definitely played her part well. (Laughs)

Anyway, I was reading another pink ribbon sister’s discussion of a recent evening with friends and how she felt different with her new boobies even though men seemed to react to her the same way they always have. Something she said in her remarks stood out for me because I had not considered it before. She said that her new breasts weren’t sexual to her anymore. She lost that erogenous zone when she lost her nipples.

I had not considered that even with a lumpectomy (which is a partial removal of the affected breast – just the tumor and its margins are removed from the breast) the likelihood that you will lose one erogenous zone still exists.

Wow, talk about unfair. Not only are you trying to balance the way your body looks after treatment and surgeries, but on top of that your erogenous zone ceases to exist? Seriously? Ugh what a nightmare!

I guess I could spin it and decide that now my excitement could be figuring out new erogenous zones – again, this is assuming that I can find a boyfriend and have sex again (laughs). But in all seriousness, these are conversations that I really think should take place in the beginning of your treatment. The compartmentalization of what breast cancer means to your life is not the best way to handle this from a patient’s emotional point of view. This thing is like being in a horrible car accident. One day your life is totally normal and then bam! Into a brick wall and everything is totally different. No warning, no preparation… just oh! Here’s your new life, good as new, right? Wrong. Wrong, wrong!


It’s frustrating and annoying to realize that the issues of feminine sexuality, sexual arousal and well, sexual satisfaction are pushed to the back-burner when it comes to treatment. I wonder whether men are treated the same way when it comes to prostate cancer.

We’ve got to find a new way to deal with this. Because d*mmit… I want my sex life back and I want it to be as good as or better than before. Actually, I’m putting my order in for far better than before. Something wonderful has to come from this crazy breast cancer journey, right? Why can’t it be an exquisite sex life? (A girl can dream and hope right?)

I’ve read a bunch of very clinical (read: boring and dry) pamphlets about your sex drive and breast cancer. And they did nothing to provide ideas or suggestions about how to cope with your changing body image, your changed sexual abilities and what sort of head-trip that could send you on. If I am not my hair (thanks India Arie!) then my sex is more than my va-jay-jay and my beauty is more than my skin and my curves (though I like both of those and want them to return to their full glory asap). My breasts weren’t just window dressing on a cute frame. They were an active part of my life and my sensuality.

What I’m saying is that I am a little bit upset. I am happy to be alive. But the life that I seem to have been given isn’t the life that I put in the hands of my medical team in 2008. What they gave me back just isn’t the same and I’m frustrated with searching for ME again. They gave me back a life that says… SURVIVOR. This is fine except I gave them a life that said FREE!

Survivor seems so pared down and almost pale in comparison. I suppose I have to change that. (Ding!) I guess that’s what “My Fabulous Boobies” really is all about. Changing the perception of being a breast cancer survivor.


I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations, no!


I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within.

Is there hope of a sex life after breast cancer?

One of my pink ribbon sisters brought up this topic on twitter the other night and because I was in the midst of a hot flash (of a different kind)... I jumped right in with both feet and said I HOPE SO!

(I'm blaming my outburst on the wine I had been drinking)

It wasn't my intention to tell the twitter world that I wanted to get laid. (laughs) But... I did. And I've been thinking about that ever since my outburst. Its not a crime to want to experience sexual intimacy. Its a natural progression in life. So, I have to ask... why does all of this seem just so doggone hard? I mean, I know part of it has to do with worrying about the big "reveal" prior to the act. But I don't think that's all of it.

Here's the thing: I am a single woman. Before breast cancer, I was vibrant and energetic and enjoyed a full sex life. Well, its almost two years after my diagnosis and while I've been through the hell fighting this disease... I'm getting back to "me". And "me" includes enjoying an active love life.

I want that part of my life back too. (please and thank you!)

Getting to the place where I feel good in my skin has taken some time. I have moments when I'm not really feeling that great or that pretty... but they come fewer and farther between now. I'm so grateful for that. But there's always another challenge and the current challenge is... Will there be a resurrection of my sex life after cancer?

Sigh. I surely hope so.

I have confirmed that men do still find me attractive. I am assured that at least a few of those guys probably would consider having sex with me. However getting from the mental thoughts of... "I would really like to get nekkid with him"... to the actual..."ohmygawd... we're about to do it"... seems to be the equivalent of getting from Maryland to the moon.

And I don't have a rocket in my backyard.

From a clinical perspective, I can reassure my pink ribbon sisters behind me on the path... yes, your sex drive will come back. Depending on where you are in your journey, it may even be higher than you remember. From an emotional perspective, its good to remember that you're still a girl -- and to feel it, way down deep, down there too.

But I'm older and wiser in ways that I wasn't before breast cancer. And between that hesitation in my head and the thought of getting that close to another person and risking rejection... whew. We're back at looking at maps to get to the moon.

I WANT to get sexual again. Just not sure how to do it. Do I just jump right out there, pick a cute boy and roll with it? Literally? Or do I try to slow my hormonal lust down and find a good man to have a long-term and solid relationship with? Do it the "good girl" way?

Shooooooot!! I have NOT been a good girl all my life. Sorry to disappoint some of you. But its true. What I have been is relatively quiet and discrete about my actions. Those who know... KNOW. Those who don't... can only guess. I never confirm nor deny. I just smile and nod and keep it moving.

So, where does that leave me now? I'm a sexy, juicy girl... with a lot of lust in my heart. (Gawsh, I know some folks are probably wondering why I'm going there today) I'm trying not to be too crass but the truth is that I spend a lot of time with myself trying not to explode all over the place.

Hmmm... that didn't come out right. What I mean is...

What I mean is, I want to get back to having a normal sex life. Judging from what I've read about other pink ribbon sisters, establishing a new normal is par for the course and it does get better. Actually, I want an abnormal sex life, honestly. I want more sex than I know what to do with. (laughs) And I want it now.

In the meantime, I'll keep  working on the "good girl" plan. Its safer, I think.

Hair chronicles: returning to the "old" me

I’ve been stressed out about my hair for the past few months. When it started growing back, I was happy about it. As it continued to grow, I was still sort of thrilled about it. Although, I was pretty confused about how to care for it and style it. So, I started experimenting with different products and such. And it was growing pretty well. That was good.


For some reason though, I got it in my head that I needed a haircut. A shaping or something. I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror every day. I liked the hair itself, but I didn’t like my overall look anymore. Spring is coming and I needed something with some oomph.


Long story short, I cut my hair last night. I went to the barbershop and sat in my regular chair and got a haircut. It has been a year and a half since the last time I sat in that chair. I was happy to see my barber and we chatted a bit about nothing per usual but it was good. It was the same rhythm from before cancer. That was what I wanted. Some of that old rhythm in my life.


He started those clippers and I sat there stoic-faced trying not to be shocked as the little curlies fell on the floor. But it was really hard not to cry. I don’t know why. My haircut is really nice. Very sharp. Suits me just fine. But cutting my hair was really not the move.


I am really unhappy. Not with his work but it is slowly dawning on me that I am not that girl anymore. Every time I try to push myself back into the old me mold, I realize that I don’t fit there anymore.


I made a promise to myself that I would let my hair grow. And then I cut it. For no real reason other than I wanted to feel cute and sassy again. But I am realizing that like India Arie sang… I am not my hair. Hair doesn’t define me – but I mean that in the sense that I don’t have to wear a certain style any longer to feel or express my beauty. I don’t have to go back to the old me and the old definition of what makes Nic beautiful. I can be a very pretty and beautiful Nic with long curly hair too.


Sigh. Just wish I had this revelation before I went to the barbershop last night. (smile)


Oh well, back to the beginning. We start from here growing more hair.

Finding my rhythm and getting back to normal

I’ve been back at work for a few weeks now – minus the mini-vacation thanks to the blizzard on the east coast back in February – and I think that I’m finally starting to get back into the rhythm of things. I have a good idea how much time I need to rest in the evenings, how much sleep I need to get, and I have figured out how to pace myself. I still find myself worn down by the end of the week but I have opted to simply use Saturday as my day of rest and its working so far.


I am pleased.


But I have noticed that the more I force myself to do, the more that needs to be done. For example, if I choose to go out one evening to have some fun I find myself suddenly faced with more invitations to do more things – usually far more than I can handle. Its that push-pull sort of feeling that often causes my moods to swing a bit. I may feel frisky and up to having a drink after work on Monday or Tuesday… but when I’m faced with multiple offers for Friday or Saturday (after being out once or twice), I suddenly feel exhausted and I don’t want to go.


This has happened to me several times now. Its unsettling but I think it also makes me feel more “normal” because in my life before breast cancer, I often had to weigh and juggle many events and opportunities (not a bad problem to have really) and I often struggled with saying no to doing things and meeting with people because my schedule was just full.


(It feels so arrogant to say that, but I really am not trying to boast or brag at all) Today is a great example. The hospital where I had my treatment is holding a seminar this evening discussing patient care issues that sounds FASCINATING but I also want to get my haircut – made an appointment for this evening – and more importantly, I AM TIRED and I need to finish my laundry. (laughs) So, do I force myself to go to the seminar and possibly learn something new? Do I dash out and get a much needed sprucing up? Or do I head home and just put my head on my pillow – and pray for laundry to be completed another day?


So normal. So very very normal. Just another day in a survivor’s world.

Flirting is good for the soul…

I am convinced that flirting is just good for the soul. I think it makes your skin brighter, your smile shinier and your eyes more sparkly.

I have no medical proof of this but that's what I firmly believe. Its how I felt yesterday when I spent the afternoon laughing with an acquaintance.

You know the drill... its always someone that you never quite think of in "that" way... someone you've known for awhile... someone who somehow, magically manages to do or say or smile just the right way... and then it clicks...

Wow... he's cute, and smart and funny and sweet... How did I miss all this before?

In the case of this specific gentleman... He’s someone I’ve known for a couple of years. He is just a smidge younger than I am. (well, more than a smidge but eh… I don’t look my age so we’ll just keep blurring that line) And he’s freaking adorable. I had a really fun easy-going time with him.

I like those.

The great thing about younger men is that they seem just a tad fearless in their approach. (laughs) They put it out there, and if you seem hesitant, they put it out there stronger. And again... and then they tweak it a little and try again. Until you smile... pow!

Persistence can be sexy. (Stalking is not -- know the difference, please!)

It is very appealing to chat with someone and discover little nuggets about them that make you smile and that send your mind wandering just a little bit into the land of ... "what if..." and then to pull back to reality and think... "gee, this is actually a really good moment". And your smile grows just a little bit larger... and you nod (maybe to yourself) that yes... yes! THIS is a good, good moment.

It was like that.

All sparkly, shimmery, fun and frolic. It was a giddy, tickly feeling in my tummy. It was... slide your eyes down low 'cause you're thinking slightly naughty thoughts and you don't quite want to give it away. (I can say all this here because he does not read the blog, hallelujah!)

All that to say... after having a great day -- I gave a talk about breast cancer to some very nice people in Baltimore (great experience) -- an unexpected opportunity to flirt and laugh and feel free and happy... was the cherry on top of the sundae. It was a good feeling.

I am going to encourage everyone to take an hour or so (hopefully longer) today – or over the next few days – to just smile, laugh and say naughty and inappropriate things to someone you really want to see smile. Trust me… it will make you feel good all the way down to your toes.

Did for me. (wink)
Sessy pink ribbon girl strikes again!!

Audacity Tees

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