The Edge Of 50
According to my blog post calendar, I’m scheduled to write my 50th birthday post today. So here I am. 48 hours away from turning 50 years old.
The laptop is open, the coffee is hot, I’m seated at my desk ready to write it all down to share with all of you.
All week I’ve been playing it out in my head. I’ll talk about how excited I am to embrace this new chapter. 50 is the new 40. The Golden Years. On and on.
But quite honestly, I’m simply happy to be here. Like silly happy. Grateful just to be here on planet Earth, with my two incredible daughters. Here to raise them and watch them grow into beautiful, smart, healthy successful young women.
Which is pretty mind blowing to me, because there were times that I truly believed that breast cancer would steal me away from them forever. Eight years ago when I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I felt as though my perfectly planned life was unraveling right before my very eyes. An already fragile marriage took a huge hit from the devastating physical and emotional impact of this relentless disease. An unexpected bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction, total hair loss, weight gain, aggressive chemotherapy, mood swings from all of the infusions and meds, depression and my inability to work as much as I had been created the perfect storm. And someone that I could hardly recognize.
Needless to say, shortly after my treatment was completed, I had to face the end of a 19 year marriage. Without going into too much detail, there was no foul play. No dramatic story to share here. Our relationship was in trouble way before my breast cancer diagnosis. We simply didn’t work anymore. It took me a long time to accept the new landscape of my life. And that was just the personal side of things.
Professionally, I was a hardcore fashion and beauty publicist through and through. I was the deal closer. The one that agencies would call when they needed someone to save a failing account. I didn’t sign off for the day until every single editor email was answered. Chemotherapy challenged my work ethic and I fought back hard. But I’m no superhero, and there were days that I simply couldn’t do it. Thank goodness that I had the most amazing work wife to absorb some of my responsibilities, and kept me on board until I was able to go full throttle again. I’ll be forever grateful to her for that.
In retrospect, working when I could throughout my cancer treatment helped me to maintain my identity. However, as time went on, I began to grow (without even meaning to) my work and passion for Cancer Fashionista. What started out as a list of cool and fabulous products to get us through breast cancer treatment (i.e., post-mastectomy bras, lashes, wigs, etc.) soon took on a life of its own.
Early in the morning and late in the evenings when my PR work was done, the dishes were put away and my girls were tucked into bed, I’d share and connect right here on my blog as well as on my social media platforms. It felt like a blast of lightning (in a good way!) when I was able to help the newly diagnosed with my advice. I never experienced that kind of joy before….the feeling when you know you’re making a direct impact on someone else’s life for the better.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…that this is what I need to be doing full time. I slowly transitioned from PR to breast cancer advocacy (and even launched my very own, “Dear Cancer, I’m Beautiful Podcast” this year) and I can honestly say that I can’t imagine doing anything else. As a result of my research and connecting with incredible experts, I’ve been inspired to take better care of myself than ever before. I meditate, workout, eat clean. But I also have lots of fun. I’m so grateful for my friends who contribute to this fun factor, including those of you who I have only met here online. We’re so lucky to have one another, and I can’t stress the importance of community and connection no matter what kind of trauma you’re going through.
Is breast cancer the best thing that ever happened to me? HECK NO! But I was fortunate enough to have a positive prognosis that allowed me to courageously turn a couple of big pages in my book. So how does it feel to turn 50? It feels PRETTY DAMN GOOD. I am not sure what the next 50 years will bring. We are living in such uncertain times. But what I do know is that I am happy and proud to be here. And to be doing this kind of work. I hope my story helps shed perspective on change. And the power of adapting to a life that you didn’t plan. Who knows, perhaps that’s where the magic is…..embracing the twists and turns that we never saw coming which then result in new relationships, friendships and career paths that bring us more happiness and success than we ever thought imaginable. I suppose the lesson here is to do the best we can even under the most devastating of circumstances…and trust that the universe will take care of the rest.
*NOTE: What started out as a pretty straightforward birthday photo shoot soon turned into a “cake smashing” event. While we were shooting I said to my photographer, “Ohhhh I wish we had gotten a cake for me to smash.’The next thing I knew, we were at Whole Foods buying a cake. Impulsive? Definitely. Silly? Without a doubt. A good way to jump into my “Golden Years?” For sure! Moral of the story? Celebrate each year. Be silly. Take chances. Do what you love. We’ve got one shot at this thing called life so create the one that you want.