Meet Deb: From Grief to Joy

By Deb Hart


Seven months after I lost my twenty-two year old son, Kasey, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had only been married for a few months before Kasey died. This new relation ship was based on the fun-loving, life-of-the-party girl who was foot-loose and fancy-free, financially independent and ready to live life now that the kids were gone. I was young, healthy and happy. I was these things, and in the span of just a few months I didn’t know who or what I was.

Wow. Breasts removed. Chemotherapy. Infections. Had just lost my son. To say I was not a good parent would be understatement of gross proportions. I barely had any will to get up each morning, let alone to rebuild, relive, or reconstruct. However, time marches on. In the beginning of this story I struggled just to get out of bed and take a shower. In the end I wrote a book, started a non-profit, and became an inspirational speaker. In between I got new boobies. Obviously, there’s more to the story!

In the train-wreck stage of things, even my new rack was a disaster. My reconstruction was ok for about five years, and them my implants encapsulated, (which means scar tissue was forming and hardening around the implants). I had hunched shoulders and pain- not to mention they did not look good. So, I found a physician who claimed he could fix me right up! We had the damn things re-moved and replaced with the more natural lipo fat implants. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this too went sideways. Because somehow, despite a “successful” surgery, two days after arriving home my kidneys failed. Subsequently my heart failed, although by then I was in the ICU and they were able to revive me. Not so for the kidneys. I was sent home from the hospital after three weeks, to a life of dialysis three times a week for five hours a day. I was told there was a chance my kidneys would “kick back in.” But for three months, this was my new so-called “life”.

Like many before me I was desperate to find a reason – some purpose for all that I was going through, so I bargained and made a deal with God. I promised if he would just get those kidneys going again, I would start a non-profit to provide retreats for women diagnosed with breast cancer I would write a book. I would become an inspirational speaker. The powers that be must have liked those ideas because the kidneys started working again. I wrote a book. I started a successful 501(c)3: “Pink Sistas”, and I am an inspirational speaker.

The second marriage failed (go figure)! But the new breasts are pretty good. I was nervous about them, especially being back out on the dating scene. But I did a little research and found a woman who did breast reconstruction nipple tattoos. For me, this was the key to just possible accepting, and maybe even liking my bosom! The tattoos make me think I have something resembling real breasts, and in the shadowy light of intimacy, they actually feel “real.”

As for my life, I got it back by giving back….I love the creativity and heart within the process of reaching out and supporting others. Every time I share my story, I come closer to healing my heart. Our friends and family want to be there and want to help us, but they haven’t “done the journey.” It is very different to be able to speak with someone who has suffered the same kind of challenge, the same kind of loss that you are experiencing.

During treatment and during surgery, out families are there for us. After this, it seems that everyone offers the “high-five”, sending cards, messages, or food. There is then a period where family and friends feel “we were there for you”, but the process continues. As we hop our of the shower and see that our breasts are gone….these are the moments when the processing begins. We begin to the voice on our shoulder saying “when is it going to come back?” “How do I get my life back together?” When you join with other breast cancer patients, there is a sisterhood that does not end in the midst of your processing, but instead reaches a hand out to every stage of dealing with breast cancer and its aftermath. There is no judgment, only understanding. Do not put a timeline on your own processes.

Joy and happiness will come back. Don’t expect them to be there every moment. It’s ok; this is a true hit to self-confidence and self-image. Allow yourself to be nurtured and cared for as much as your life allows for this.

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