Meet Eileen Isola, Breast Cancer Warrior!

LoudounWOJOSeptOct2015_Page_23The story of how one year ago I came to meet the publisher, Dorri C. Scott, is worthy of its own telling. Out of that chance meeting, she asked me to join Virginia Woman Magazine as a Guest Columnist to share some of my cancer experiences, feelings, and discoveries.

One year later, I again reflect and write, and again take a leap off the vulnerability cliff with you. I shared last year how I emerged from “Cancer Year 1” battered but feeling victorious. My awesome, beautiful, always well accessorized breast surgeon, Dr. Bridget Oppong, had confirmed I was cancer free. However, the reconstruction work by the plastic surgeon left me with numerous physical and chronic pain problems which required continuous rehab, physical therapy, medications, and the “shopping” of my case to various medical institutions.

One year ago, the Obstinate She-Warrior set off on a new campaign to conquer the physically debilitating hordes left by cancer that have been raging across my body. Those same enemy hordes were also out to destroy my emotional, spiritual, and financial life. It is an immutable cancer truth that it metastasizes to every other fiber of the life it has attacked, and leaves a destructive wake long after the murderous cells have been killed or rendered impotent. Having beaten the murderous cells, I was compelled to defeat in Athena-like fashion both the physical and emotional destruction it had left in its wake.

I found a new surgeon who could fix some of the reconstruction issues and underwent more surgeries. I took almost no time off from my business. “I’m a business owner — there’s no such thing as time off,” I rationalized. I put over 24,000 miles on my car booking medical appointments for 6 a.m. that were two hours away, and piggy-backing business meetings onto them for “efficiency.” I took all kinds of pain and sleep meds, and dutifully attended over 200 physical therapy and rehab appointments. And, I threw myself into the Avon 39 Walk – a two-day, 39-mile walk through the Washington DC area — confident that this would prove I. WAS. FINE. The Avon Walk was one of the most profound experiences of my life as I carried over 40 names of cancer victims on my race tag – names that friends messaged and texted me during the Walk as they followed me on Facebook.

I demanded that my body perform; reverted to extreme compartmentalization to subjugate the anger and exhaustion; and vowed to make mince-meat out the emotional elephant that sat upon my heart and soul.

A year later the Obstinate She-Warrior has  awaken. The campaign I was waging was the wrong campaign. I was fighting the wrong enemy. And my body has been raging back. I hadn’t bothered to talk to it, consult it, ask it what it needed, wanted, or deserved. I hadn’t been silent. I hadn’t listened. I had set off on a campaign into Unknown, Uncertainty and Change that is cancer’s refuse and in doing so I had been raging against my body instead of with and for it.

I now begin a new campaign. A campaign of peace. All peace deals begin with a cease-fire and a truce. I have ceased firing upon my body, and had a conversation with it asking if it would honor a truce while we work together to figure out what a lasting peace will look like – physically, emotionally, and financially. She said yes. We are a long way from an enduring peace as I write, but we have already negotiated the shape of the table. First steps on a journey of peace – and healing.

By: Eileen Isola

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