Art journaling in the dark.

" the dark" = Because I'm creating and thinking about something completely unexpected and unfamiliar.

How we got here:

Family history on both sides of breast and ovarian cancer including both grandmothers; one survived and one had a second diagnosis of bilateral breast cancer and died seven years later of metastatic breast cancer. Also a male relative diagnosed with breast cancer in his 40s.

Starting Oct 2015 on through Oct 2017, I had two biopsies, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, had BRCA lab testing, a lumpectomy, six weeks of radiation, follow-up mammograms and appointments and was given the all-clear.

I had been referred to the Department of Human Genetics at Cincinnati Children's for a cancer syndrome panel and had appointment this past January. They realized my original BRCA test was incomplete and added it to the panel. Results back about three weeks ago. My BRCA1 result paired with our family history means high risk for recurrence of breast cancer as well as high risk for ovarian cancer.  My first surgery is outpatient bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy*. It's scheduled for April 21st.

Well, poop.

I'd been tested. I had surgery and radiation. I was all clear. Then... I wasn't. The cancer isn't back but suddenly it's not just about whether I have cancer right now.

Is it anyone's fault? I don't know if there is someone to blame for the first test being incomplete. I'm assuming if that's the case we'll discuss it during the appointment with my surgeon next Monday. But ultimately it doesn't really matter because it doesn't change the end result.

I trust God. Completely. No matter what it looks like or feels like right now. But I'm upset. I've been sad and angry and irritated and have no control over something that is so intimately entwined with my physical being and yet so ultimately out of my control: my DNA. I wanted to blame someone so I could transfer all of this mental chaos to someone or somewhere else. It's a lot to sort out in my head. And every time I sort one thing there's something else or some new aspect I couldn't anticipate because this is all new.

My friend Jodi suggested I use an art journal to work through it. I couldn't argue even if I'd wanted to because I suggested the same thing to her years ago when she was struggling with something life was throwing at her. The kind of crazy thing is, especially if you know me, I've never worked spontaneously on my own in an art journal before.

A few years ago my bible study friends and I did an online art journaling class based on one of Brene Brown's books. There were prompts and assignments to complete then we'd gather and share and process together. I enjoyed the discussions on what we were all working through in our common assignments but once the class ended, I didn't think to continue on my own.  So really, I'm somewhat inexperienced at art journaling – which to me means the creating of art rather than using words as a means of expressing or processing my thoughts as I work through something.

I've never been someone who kept a diary or regularly wrote in a journal. And aside from that one guided online class, I've never taken my ongoing processing on any topic and consistently translated it into imagery as an interpretation of what I was feeling and thinking. So far it's been good and really helpful.

So, if we're friends on Facebook or instagram you've seen some art journal photos by now. In the future I may post my thoughts on some, I may not. I've created more than I've shown and may or may not share it later. I don't know right now and that's fine.

*I fully admit that procedure's title is fun to say


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