“HAVE HOPE” By: Eleni

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So, I have heard it said that bravery takes on many forms. I have never
considered myself a hero. However, in the past 10 months I have had to be very
brave. It’s taken much prayer and faith, grit and tears, but I’m cancer free and
thankful to be alive. Cancer is no joke, and neither is chemo. Breast cancer is
scary (especially the kind I had been diagnosed with). Hearing the word “cancer”
certainly felt like the kiss of death to me. I’ve endured much in the past year,
but from the very beginning, it was my desire to find a way to bring strength,
courage and inspiration to others even in the midst of the darkness with which I
was faced.

I’m “almost” not sure what’s worse: breast cancer or chemo. The disease is
horrific and the treatments along the road to the cure, albeit as modern as can
be, are barbaric at best. Someday we won’t have to suffer the nausea and
weakness from chemo or the hurt, humiliation and loss of identity that comes
with each fistful of fallen locks of hair. Someday we won’t have to endure the
maiming of our bodies in order to save our lives. It is my prayer that we will
find a kinder, gentler, permanent cure for all cancers in the near future. I am
hopeful that we will.

Until then, I will continue to show myself, my daughter and my husband that
strength comes from within and that faith can and will prevail. The Greek
ancestral blood running through my veins and the Hellenic legacy of standing up
against the opposition in the midst of a brutal fight, keep my heart and my
passion alive. My faith in God and my desire to show fortitude in the face of
great obstacles kept me going throughout the battle and it’s what keeps me
pressing forward.

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Cancer wasn’t the only thing that frightened me or caused me to grieve: looking
like a chemo patient and getting stared at caused me great anxiety.
Furthermore, I also experienced fear and apprehension when I was being pitied
or when someone found out and then looked at me like I was the walking dead.
However, losing my hair and then my breast definitely brought me the deepest
level of emotional pain.

I have always had long, luxurious hair. Losing that hair was traumatic. Sure,
it’s just hair. Some tried to comfort me by saying it would grow back. Yes, of
course, I knew this already. Try to understand the psychology behind losing all
that hair…it was down to my tailbone…that was the crushing blow. Looking at
my bald head or letting anyone see me with short hair once it began to grow back
in, was quite threatening to my psyche: The cancer diagnosis made my life
spiral out of control. I had not felt any sense of control for months.
Especially after my hair fell out. When it was finally all gone I screamed. It
was a primal scream. It was a sound I had never heard myself utter. It came from
somewhere deep within. That primal sound escaped my lips and almost drowned my
soul once again on the day I had to face removing the bandage and I had to
behold the giant scar where my breast had been.

Cancer and its cure shook my very identity and challenged what I thought of
myself. Thankfully, I already knew who I was, but it was still difficult and
devastating to endure the slow, systemic erosion of my exterior self. I was and
am a strong Greek woman with a deep faith in God. Yet, I questioned my own sense
of humanity as I looked in the mirror at the ever-changing visage of the person
I knew. Even as my ability to recognize the woman in the mirror diminished, a
tiny ember inside my soul still persisted. I was determined that once I got
through this great travail I would arise and show cancer and other women that
strength, dignity, beauty, and courage come from within and that no one and
nothing can take that all away.

With all this in mind, I specifically chose Friday the 13th. I made up my mind
that I would do something that terrified me on that day. I decided I would never
don the wig again. Gone was the security blanket. So, I announced my decision to
everyone I knew and asked anyone who cared about me to meet me at Molon Labe
CrossFit, our box. I was nervous all week. Finally, the time arrived to walk in
without the wig. Yes, I was among family and friends, but I was afraid to let
anyone see me this vulnerable and open. I did it anyway. I was determined that
neither cancer nor chemo nor anyone’s opinion would ever be able to victimize
me. I refused. IMAG1568 (2)

I wanted to show the world that no matter what the obstacle, or the challenge,
the only way you lose and “it” wins is if you or I allow ourselves to be
victimized or controlled by something. So, I took off the wig, put on my best
lipstick and a sparkly floor length pink dress and I walked into the gym. I
heard some gasps as I nervously made my entrance. I think I might have dazzled a
few people in my gown and makeup and short hair…I dazzled myself for sure.
There I stood in the doorway (my heart pounding loudly in my ears). I walked in
and let go of the cancer, the chemo, the pain and the suffering and found
release and rebirth as the tears trickled down my face. The anxiety faded as I
was surrounded by the love and acceptance I felt from everyone in the room. I am
cancer free, but more importantly, I am taking back my life and my identity. I
am doing my best to show strength and to be brave.

Beauty, and strength come from within. I hope I have inspired someone out there
to be bold, to be strong, and to fight. I hope the people in my life will find
the courage to let go of their fears and live a life that is fulfilling. I
always say joy is a choice…so is everything else in life. I choose to
persevere and to have faith in God, in my loved ones, and in humanity. There is
still much good in the world. In the face of opposition to what’s pure and what
is right….in the face of great evil (cancer or murder or lies)….in the face
of anything that dares to take way our vulnerability or our identity we say:
Molon Labe! You can try to break us. You may try to destroy us. You can try.
However, we will stand in the face of great opposition. We will fight. Have
hope and prevail. Molon Labe!

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Note: I hope you will draw strength from what I have shared and that you will be
inspired by the victory photos (glam shots) and the fight wod pictures from the
13th that I have posted. Professional photo credit goes to Suzlily photography
and many thanks to Laus Deo Salon and Studio BC for the makeup and to Rockin’
Frocks in Macedonia for the dress. I thank my husband, my daughter, my blood
family, church, CrossFit family, MLCF family and many friends. I especially
thank University Hospitals: my amazing doctors, caring nurses, case managers and
the staff. Most of all I thank God for answered prayers. There are many more I
want to thank, but I will leave that for another blog.

 

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