I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer on October 1, 2009. I don’t think anyone wants to hear those words but I knew I would beat it. The gloves were on and I was ready to kick butt.
After nine months of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, I thought I knocked it out. To my surprise winning that fight was only the beginning. I spent another year fighting autoimmune issues. So the testing begins, MRI’s, PET scans, CT scans, blood work. I was told I would need a liver transplant within a year. I was in a wheelchair for about 6 months caused by my lupus diagnosis and fatigue that would keep me in bed for days.
To say that this was a lot to deal with, it was. I know that I’m a strong person but at a point you need someone or something to hold you up. I had my loved ones and friends but I needed someone to really understand what it was like to walk in my shoes. I joined support groups and cancer organizations that were all very helpful, but I believe the biggest transformation was my first yoga retreat that the Foundation for Living Beauty hosted. I will never forget the first day. I felt like I belonged and I was understood. More importantly, I was embraced so tight I felt completely supported. I could be strong and vulnerable at the same time. I met women whose fight was harder than mine and the courage they possessed only made me stronger. It was the strength in that room that first day that I carry with me.
Now when I’m told how amazing I look or how great I’m doing or what an inspiration I am, I know that I carry the strength and courage of these beautiful women. That is the gift the Foundation for Living Beauty gave me and others fighting cancer. I did know that first day I was diagnosed that I would survive cancer but I could have never imagined the sisterhood that empowers me every day. I’M GENA AND I’M A LIVING BEAUTY.