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Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Look at Me" by guest blogger Karen Cross

Look at me.

I am.

No! Look at me!

Which one are you?

I don’t know, I can’t see me anymore…all I see is pain.

I see you. You are a survivor!

Survivor, ha! I am done surviving.

You are so strong.

Am I?

Look at all you have come through.

You mean all I have survived.

Well yes…

Yes, I know I am a childhood SURVIVOR of sexual abuse. My marriage SURIVIVED an affair and now…

Now you have SURVIVED breast cancer.

But I don’t want to SURVIVE anymore, I want to LIVE!

You are so blessed!

Yes, I know.

You were lucky not to have chemo or radiation…


Yes, and I still see a strong young woman. A survivor!

Please stop saying that. I am standing here with no breasts. With medical tubes hanging where my round, supple femininity should be… How is that lucky?


Well what? You have nothing to say? You shouldn’t, because you do not know what this is like. Let me tell you, it is a horror amusement ride at one of those traveling carnivals.

Go on, tell me more…

Well I want to scream, “Let me off this ride!” Cancer, mastectomy, expanders…oh my! And yet there is more to come.

I hear your pain.

I don’t think you do. You can’t hear PAIN!

Tell me more about this ride.

December 31st was when the call came and the doors opened to the house of horrors. The doctor was on the line, and we all know doctor’s only call when it’s bad. He said, “The biopsy revealed cancer. The good news is we caught it early.”

Happy New Year!

After that call, everything is a whirlwind of shock, information overload and tough decisions. Dr. Cox, the breast cancer surgeon, was amazing and thorough in her presentation of options.

With the odds of recurrence lowest after full mastectomy, I made the choice to remove my breast and undergo reconstruction. My life, in one doctor’s visit, had changed forever.

I left the office with my husband and sister; all of us silent. It was a lot to take in, for everyone. Walking to the car felt surreal, nothing would ever be the same.

Fear of the unknown had left me numb. I had now become an attraction on the horror ride, a zombie driven aimlessly through the motions of the events that followed.

Day by day, minute by minute, I ceased to feel. After all, I had to put on a show to protect the ones I loved from the gruesomeness cancer displays.

Along the ride I appeared strong and fearless as I subjected my womanhood to the butcher’s knife. Then the ride appears to end as it comes to rest in front of these mirrors; mirrors reflecting before and after…

And now I ask you, who am I?

You are me…

No, I have changed. Where is the beautiful, confident woman I used to see?

I am still here and yours to claim.

I can’t see you in me anymore. I stand here, after the knife, angry, scarred and altered.

I still see beauty and confidence in you, look harder.

I look and I see beauty shattered with the absence of me and confidence lost in what has been left behind.

Maybe you should look at me.

I am looking and I am lost in my reflections.

I see you, you are the strong one.

Am I?

Yes, nothing’s changed there.

Then you must not be looking, because everything has changed.

On the outside, yes, but you have always been a survivor and…

There it is again, SURVIVOR, why must this be my title? When can I say enough is enough?

The Lord has a purpose for your life and your strength in adversity is how He uses you.

I accept that, but when is it okay for me to just be? When can I just live? When can I stop SURVIVING?

Maybe the answer is in your voice.

My voice? I am sure He has heard my voice. When have you known me not to speak my mind?

No, not that voice. The voice that sang praises as a child with the belief of innocence. The voice that reached others in song through the pain of a struggling marriage, where is that voice?

Oh, that voice.

Why have you silenced it?

I am afraid to sing again. My voice is my soul and I feel I must hide my deepest, painful emotions from this cavalcade freak show.

You can try and hide them, but they are the key to living.

I know...but I feel that once I begin to sing, I just might fall apart.

Then fall apart and let Him pick up the pieces. He feels your pain, He sees your tears and He longs to hear your voice.

Ah, my voice…funny, but I long to hear it too. Can it be that simple? Can it be that this is how this frightful passage ends?

I believe it does.

So, you do see me.

Yes, right here in my reflection…just look at me.

Copyright by Karen Cross 2010

Illustration reference:

Karen Cross is a 40 year old mother and wife. She has three intelligent, sensitive and funny boys and a wonderfully amazing husband. Currently, Karen helps adult learners find their way down the educational path to graduation at University of Phoenix and is one year away from graduating herself with a bachelors in psychology.

As a student recovering from breast cancer, she was provided an outlet for her emotional struggles as she returned to school after her mastectomy to a cathartic course in creative writing.

In that class this piece was born, and Karen hopes it will inspire, touch and maybe evoke the healing sought by all who travel the breast cancer journey back to emotional health.



  1. Positively moving. I'm so glad I stopped by to see what was going on here. (So many blogs to visit...too little time) What a terrific guest post. Moving.


  2. As a fresh, new "survivor" of cancer that claimed parts of my small intestine and liver I am in this process of exploring the concept of "back to normal" and how to make sense of this reclaimed life of mine. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections.