Breast Cancer + Making Peace with your body

Do you think something like getting a breast cancer diagnosis would turn your world upside down? Of course right? 

Do you think some good might come out of it? Maybe. Well, my friend Shelley Crick learned to befriend her body through her battle with cancer. 

By the way, Shelley is the happiest, funniest, most whimsical breast cancer survivor I’ve ever met.  I mean, who can get diagnosed with breast cancer and still find the humor in the things that other people can’t even imagine going through? Shelley. That’s who. Here’s her story…

Scary Diagnosis with a side of Humor

In January Shelley was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It’s the most common form of breast cancer. Specifically she was hormone positive, her2 negative, stage three IDC. The cancer had metastasized into her lymph nodes and was trying to get out into the rest of her body.

Shelley has such a sense of humor about her that she finishes up her formal diagnosis with a little, “Ta-Da! Here you go! Happy 2020!” Her sense of humor, strength, and coping skills are to be admired, studied, and definitely replicated. 

When she talks about undergoing chemotherapy for sixteen weeks and losing all her hair. BTW…did you know you lose all your hair? Eyelashes, eyebrows, all your hair? I don’t know why I only ever thought about the hair on your head, that’s kind of dumb in retrospect. Shelley light heartedly refers to herself as a “naked mole rat” while discussing the irony around everyone in lockdown wanting a haircut more than anything, and she’s was thinking, “sucks to be you.” 

Can you imagine having this much humor and grace in a situation like this? Remember, this happened not even a year ago. She’s not reminiscing about when she had cancer ten years ago and can joke about it. It literally JUST happened!

It is what it is

Shelley and I agree that this is the most annoying phrase ever. But sometimes it’s the only phrase that the situation calls for. Shelley just had to have a talk with herself and say “You can be overwhelmed with this or suck it up.” 

She didn’t want to choose to be angry and force all that negativity back into her body. A body that she points out was already pissed at her, or she could accept it for what it was. She didn’t want to spend her time being angry, or mad or sad all the time.  

It’s easier and healthier to say “it is what it is.” This helped her do what she had to do, so she could get up the next morning and tackle the next thing.

The common Enemy

Shelley has spent most of her life feeling horribly self-conscious about how large she was. She was six foot tall in the 5th grade. Ten years old with what she calls, “big ol’ boobs.” 

She says she just lived her life as a big, imposing, large shadow casting, plus size woman, who was hyper aware of that. She always tried to make herself smaller and take up less space. 

While in treatment she opted for a bilateral double mastectomy with an aesthetic flat closure. No more boobs. No more bras. “I can wear ruffles now.” She laughs. And has no regrets at all. 

“Something about losing your hair and a big portion of your body that you realize none of that shit is important and who you are is not what you look like in the mirror.” she points out. And having her hair and her breasts is not what makes her a woman. 

She’s more confident and comfortable in her body now than she has ever been. She’s grateful that it held together so strong while pulling her apart and feeding her poison and cutting parts off. “I’m really glad I have a big strong place to carry my soul and my dreams. And I deserve more tacos.”

Her goal to help other women

When Shelley was first diagnosed and was searching for information, she couldn’t find it. She wants to create a space where women can be supported, learn, and work through their breast cancer journey with support. 

If someone gets that dreaded phone call they can call her and they’ll drink coffee, or tea, or bourbon and she will talk about it and advocate for you!

She’s getting her ovaries removed soon, because her cancer is fed by hormones. So her journey continues, and of course she jokes about what a crazy person she will be when she wakes up without her lady parts. She just knows that the more open and honest she is about her journey the more she can help others.  She hopes someone will find her and need her in their corner when/if they get that diagnosis. 

Your Next Step: Be your own body’s BFF

Your next step is to call a truce with your body. The idea of Shelley spending most of her life trying to be small is heartbreaking. What are you doing rather than embracing who you are? Do less of that and more of showing up as your authentic self. Make friends with your body!

More from Shelley Crick…

We also chat about singin’ in the car and reminisce about when Shelley worked in the Berkshires…ooh lala! Also, you just have to hear this episode to fully understand the awesomeness of this human. So push play on the episode above to get the full scoop. And don’t forget to check out more from Shelley!

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