Navigating Breast Cancer and the Birth of SugarX

Navigating Breast Cancer and the Birth of SugarX - SugarX

Let me start by saying I am incredibly lucky. They caught my cancer early. I had no discernable symptoms and at 36, I was too young to start yearly mammograms. It is only due to my mom’s recent experience with breast cancer the previous year and her insistence that I get a mammogram that was my cancer found. I had to fight a little too hard to get a mammogram because of my age. It shouldn’t have been that difficult. Had I waited until 40 to get my first mammogram, I can’t imagine what the outcome would’ve been. I am incredibly lucky.

Last year was a crazy year. It feels like the journey that breast cancer has taken me on is never ending. It continues to be a very transformative and challenging experience. Between the various surgeries and hormone suppression therapy, there are times my body doesn’t feel like mine anymore. It’s a strange experience. My mental state and emotional landscape are also completely foreign to me now due to the changes I’ve experienced on hormone suppression therapy.  

Illness is a wild thing. You learn a lot about yourself and those around you. You can find yourself shocked by the people that stand by you and the people that abandon you. You can be surprised by your own reactions to things. Illness forces truths about yourself and others to come to light and it isn’t always pretty.

My predominant response to getting the news about my cancer was rage. I don’t feel that at any time I resembled the soft, pink colored ray of hope and sunshine that you usually see gently smiling back at you from the imagery present in the materials that discuss breast cancer. At times, this imagery made me angry. It felt like a pressure to have a warm and fuzzy experience with my cancer. It felt like just another way to tell women how they should outwardly present to the world while they undergo this huge, messy, life-altering experience. If our cancer feels warm and fuzzy, it is more digestible and attractive. And god forbid we don’t present as attractive. Listen, I know that controlling women’s experience isn’t the point of this imagery at all and I understand that a lot of people find solidarity and hope in it. My reaction was coming from a place of anger and rebellion against the cards that I had been dealt. I wasn’t ready to be a ray of hope and sunshine. I wasn’t ready to smile gently. I was fucking pissed. Truthfully, I still am. I am working on that.

To be fair, my anger got me through. At times it acted like a superpower. I’m not saying this is healthy, but it was (is) my truth. My anger allowed me to advocate for myself in times of deep vulnerability and uncertainty and helped me push fear aside for the moment while I dealt with my new reality. I am grateful for it. But, it was a double edged sword. I couldn’t turn my anger off when it was no longer needed. I started rebelling against everything. Everything. No matter how innocuous or beneficial something might have been, I fought back. I fought back against the good as well as the bad. I couldn’t turn it off. This has gotten better with time. It’s like my mind has finally started to realize that I am no longer at war. Although, it is still weary, it is not as reactive as it once was.

Throughout the process of getting treated for breast cancer, something that particularly pissed me off was a failure to adequately acknowledge and address quality of life issues, specifically those that affect one’s sex life and body image. Yes, I am incredibly fortunate to be alive. But yes, I do want to enjoy the experience of being in my body as much as possible. That’s ok and completely natural. It is a major part of the human experience.

Occasionally people can do this inherently unkind thing when you express your discontent with your current quality of life, they tell you that you should just be happy to be alive and emphasize how lucky you should feel. As if that concept could possibly escape you. There is an implication that you should feel guilty for feeling any discontent with the loss of the things that you previously felt helped defined you and colored how you interacted with the world around you. These people aren’t ill-intended. They mean well but their response is dismissive. The pressure to view your present situation through a lens of pure, unfiltered gratitude and not acknowledge any loss you may be feeling is reductive and maddening. Just like it is appropriate to feel gratitude for any silver linings in your situation, it is appropriate to mourn that which was lost. Fuck anyone who tries to make you feel otherwise.

Naturally, I felt rage at this narrative. And naturally, I needed to rebel. I decided that my act of rebellion was going to be SugarX and SugarX was going to focus on pleasure. I believe pleasure is a fundamental right. There is truth in pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure is not trivial, especially when that pursuit is taking place during a challenging time.

Breast cancer directly affected my body, body image, mental health and sexuality. Having my breasts completely removed and with them all sensation as well as having my estrogen and testosterone suppressed has been a wild and completely unlikeable experience. The impact this experience has had on my body image, my sexuality and my mental and emotional health has been crazy. I am a year and a half out from my initial diagnosis and I’m still on the ride. This process has made me reflect on the role sexuality and pleasure play in my life and how they had defined me up to the point of diagnosis and how they continue to define me. Sex isn’t just an act, it is language used to communicate a rich litany of emotions and in a way I felt I had been rendered a mute. I had to learn to communicate in a new way with my new body and circumstances. While some people don’t feel so defined by their sexuality. I did. I still do. To clarify, my sexuality is not my entirety, but it is a deeply meaningful element of my existence. I’m not going to pretend that isn’t true. Sex and pleasure aren’t trivial. Body confidence and mental health aren’t trivial. They simply aren’t.

The endeavor of reclaiming pleasure is a life affirming pursuit. Pleasure is grounding. It brings you back into your body, forces you to be present, mitigates stress and anxiety, builds body confidence, and makes space for positive emotions to take center stage.

I bought the articles for SugarX right before I was diagnosed in 2022. My journey of starting a business was interrupted. When I got the news about my cancer, I knew there was no way in hell that I wasn’t going to pick up right where I left off once I found some time to breathe. I was going to make this happen.

As it currently stands, I am in the process of marrying this new version of myself with what remains of the old version. The two versions are in a constant state of negotiation. With each faltering, tentative step forward, I slowly acquaint myself with the new person I’ve become. I’m getting there. Still, the shadow of cancer continues to follow me around. Every time there is a new bump or pain and I have to undergo imaging, I am triggered. I am constantly questioning my decisions regarding what I eat, asking myself if I have worked out enough and if that wine I had last night will be the thing that triggers reoccurrence. I am still dealing with terrible anxiety, depression and fatigue that are a byproduct of hormone suppression therapy. That being said, I am also inching my way towards a new normal. I can see progress.

I haven’t been able to blog or post as much as I would like. Dealing with post cancer realities takes up more of my time and energy than I thought they would this far out from diagnosis. But, I appreciate you bearing with me. I know I have a lot more work to do to make SugarX what I envisioned.

Thank you to all of you who have come along on my journey and to everyone who has taken a chance on a new small business. You have helped support me and my little act of rebellion.  I hope, through SugarX, I was able to support you with yours. Nothing would make me happier.

Here’s to 2024! Here’s to more discoveries and more little acts of rebellion!



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