Dawn Bontempo on living life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
On my one-year anniversary of finishing treatments, I ran a 5K and got a tattoo…. The 5K was probably not as shocking to my friends and family as the tattoo, but there was something surreal about the days leading up to June 7, 2014, that led me to do something that was symbolic of the new me – the me that kicked cancer’s butt and was leading a fearless life.
To understand what brought me to that point, I should probably take you back to Oct 12, 2012; the day the radiologist called to tell me that I had breast cancer. Let me tell you – being diagnosed at 41 years old sucked! There is no history of breast cancer in my family and I knew only a handful of women who were survivors. I was anxious; I was overwhelmed; and I was more scared than I had ever been in my entire life. But, I was still me and this girl uses sarcasm and humor and views the world through rose-colored glasses.
Within a couple days of diagnosis, I announced to the world via Facebook that I had cancer. Did you read that? I announced via an ‘I have cancer’ Facebook post. Yes, yes I did! Even I look back now and wonder what I was thinking, but it mobilized a support team and I started my journey. I endured a lumpectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and 34 radiation treatments before declaring victory on June 7, 2013.
What have I learned in the last two years?
- Laugh often and laugh loudly
- Be bold and be fearless
Laugh often and laugh loudly – I come from an Italian family where loud is just expected. I was certainly a positive person before cancer, but each laugh and each moment of joy is so much more precious now. I often tell folks to find something that brings them joy and do it often! For me, that has manifested in mentoring and coaching. It brings me immense joy to encourage and assist folks in realizing their goals and dreams.
Be bold and be fearless – in the last two years, I have traveled overseas on a solo vacation to the El Camino de Santiago; I have walked the Avon39; and I have flung myself into many new and exciting experiences. Just go out and do it is my advice! It sounds a lot like a Nike ad, but I can’t express it any better. Every new experience and every new adventure makes me stronger and makes me enjoy life even more.
I often tell folks who are recently diagnosed that being a breast cancer survivor is a sorority you never wanted to be a part of, but there are a lot of really awesome women in it.
Now, go out and fearlessly fling yourself into the world!
Dawn Bontempo is the author of the book, Breast Cancer Mardi Gras: Surviving the Emotional Hurricane and Showing My Boobs to Strangers. You can contact Dawn and read more about her fearless flinging on her website: www.dawnbontempo.com