On February 11th, 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This writing represents my thoughts and journey in the moments, weeks, and months that followed. From this, a poem was also developed in collaboration with my mother, Josey Cooper, for a spoken-word dance solo I recorded, choreographed, and performed. View the written poem >
I guess I never imagined hearing that word applied to me, hoping the avoided thought would keep it distant from me. In the days before, a massive uncharacteristic snow storm -- perhaps the biggest in my region’s history -- quietly settled in, as an ominous backdrop. And on February 11th, 2019, isolated in the storm, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
This unbelievable news was the outcome of a routine but overdue medical checkup, one that could have been taken care of months or even a year before, or could have been delayed further, but suddenly was top of mind. Benign cysts are common. Over the years there had been many of these routine exams, always with the same benign conclusion.
But this exam was different -- a new cyst was discovered. Still, not alarming; perhaps an addition to the family. But this one was not easy to find. “It doesn’t look like the others,” said the doctor. “It needs biopsy.”
And the results were back. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I didn’t know these words. Anticipating they were fancy medical jargon for another variation of another benign cyst -- and not ready to hear anything else -- I asked, “but what is that?” “Cancer,” she struggled to say. In that moment, my mental interior entirely and permanently changed.
Looking outside at the endless snow, I couldn’t help thinking this might actually signal the end of the world. Everything began to spin. Reality shifted. How long had I moved through life and all its hustles and pursuits, ignorant of cancer growing inside of me? My body absorbs shock and bounces back, I’d always thought. Suddenly, I began to discover myself as a completely vulnerable being, in the process of slowly, or perhaps not slowly, being destroyed from within. What is my environment within that allowed for this mutation?
Suddenly, I felt myself drowning in a future I never imagined -- surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, long-term medication, or all of those. Night after night I allowed only thoughts of faith to carry me to sleep. But each morning I awoke to a nightmare, remembering I have cancer now. I wondered if there was an exit, back into my dreams, back into the vortex, then to a new start?
After the findings of the first surgery I was told I needed a second one, as soon as possible. I didn’t imagine this could happen! Malignant cells lingered. My mind orbited in a constant state of uncertainty. Do I have a future? How much? This uncertainty has always existed, I realized, but now I lived in a heightened state of awareness. Suddenly, I began to see all the colors and textures! Suddenly, I began to consciously and actively choose life, whether for ten more minutes or for ten more years. At least I have this chance. So many are no longer among the living.
Hearing the news or by osmosis, the survivors began to reach out and share their wisdom. “In many ways it is a gift,” said one. “You’ll never have another bad day again,” said another. When cancer falls upon you, all previous anxieties and sorrows become small pebbles. “You are about to discover how much love there is in your community,” said another. And I did! I wanted to capture this in a bottle and save the world with it. Seriously, why don’t we call or text a few people weekly to check in on how things are going, without that being weird?
8/20/2019 06:20:17 pm
You, Suzanna, "consciously" and "actively" chose LIFE. Those who have a lot of life within them have a greater ability to overcome challenges than most other people. That's what I noticed about you when I was with you and Roberto in Mountlake. The thirst for life must be greater than any concern that afflicts us. Your reflections helped me reflect on the brevity of life and that we should live in a lighter way.
8/20/2019 06:34:44 pm
Thank you for sharing this, Suzanna! I appreciate the reminder to appreciate the gift of today. You are right! Sending thoughts of health and love your way.
8/20/2019 07:16:23 pm
Thank you for sharing your story <3
8/21/2019 08:11:59 pm
Thank you for reading Kendra. ♡ I hope you and you daughter are well.
8/20/2019 10:24:16 pm
You are a courageous young woman and have seized this weird "opportunity" that fate has given you to make lots of positive choices in your life. I am proud of you (and just a bit biased).
8/21/2019 08:15:00 pm
Well thank you! ♡ I actually hadn't seen that so clearly until you put it that way! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
8/21/2019 07:54:42 am
Thanks for sharing your journey. Sending love and hugs.
8/21/2019 10:33:20 pm
Thank you James! ♡
8/21/2019 11:30:29 am
Dear Suzanne, it is so nice to hear from you again. Keep that faith. We are all on the same road. Some with more obstacles along the way. You are such a spirited loving woman. All the best to you & may God hold you close. your thought are wonderfully written!
8/21/2019 10:40:32 pm
Hi Shiela, your thoughts are also beautifully written! Thank you for your blessings ♡ and for staying in touch.
8/21/2019 01:39:49 pm
I remember that snowstorm. To have gone through it with a new diagnosis of cancer must have been terrifying. Many hugs to you, and I wish you a full recover. Thank you for sharing this, cancer has touched my family deeply.
8/21/2019 10:54:54 pm
It's great to hear from you Rebecca. Yes, it was so exactly terrifying. I'm kinda afraid of snow now, though I wasn't a fan before, so maybe that's just an excuse 😉. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, and for your blessings ♡. Many back to you and your family ♡.
8/22/2019 12:30:48 am
Thanks for sharing your story and your thoughts. Sending you love ♡♡
8/24/2019 02:19:34 pm
Thank you, Anyelle! ♡ ♡ ♡
8/22/2019 07:35:07 pm
You know i love you, but I'm going to take this moment to make sure you really, really know.
8/24/2019 02:37:58 pm
Thank you, Saqra! ♡ ♡ ♡ It means a lot to me that you took the time to make sure I really really know 😊. It's been so long since we've had contact. YOU are such a treasure. You have empowered countless artists (hundreds? thousands?) to step into their own light, and I will never forget the way you did that for me. I'm so happy you relate to my realization of 'no bad days' and thank you for taking the time to read and post ♡.
8/22/2019 07:44:35 pm
Dear Suzanna san! I am in awe of your attitude facing this adversity in your life, you chose to live and enjoy whatever comes your way! You are strong and vulnerable at same time! We have only one life to live! My life was in shamble, 4 years ago but nothing compares to what you are going thru! I decided to enjoy every minutes and seconds of my life, everyday! Because there is not guaranty that I will be here tomorrow! In Buddhism, most important view of the world is that all living things will die and everything is in constant change (Mujou)! If we worry that I might die tomorrow, you can not enjoy today! That means do not worry about tomorrow because you have no control of your destiny! Enjoy today to the fullest!!!!! I admire your spirit and energy you possesses! My heart and spirit are with you all the time! Sending lots of healing thoughts, love and positive energy!!!!!! <3
8/24/2019 03:36:54 pm
Tatsuki, your wonderful comment means so much to me! ♡ Thank you for taking the time to relate and share from your perspective. Yes, that decision to enjoy every minute and every second comes from such a dark, heavy, and hopeless place. Another way our dualistic universe reveals itself. Thank you for the incredible love you show me and so many in my community! I love your powerful bright spirit and I am so fortunate to know you ♡.
8/22/2019 08:57:27 pm
Thank you for sharing. Reading your experience and how you've worked with it is encouraging, as it reminds us we have a choice in how we react and work with trials that we're faced with.
8/24/2019 03:52:55 pm
Thank you Phaedra Nicholle! ♡ Yes, I've heard it said that once you wake up and lift your head off that pillow, you've got everything you need. With every thought we have, we shape a new moment. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope things are going well in your life, and I hope to see you! It's been too long, again.
8/23/2019 09:38:01 am
Suzanna you are such a wonderful and amazing being!! Thank you for sharing your story!! You are an inspiration to me and I know to so many others. Sending you so much love!!
8/24/2019 04:03:02 pm
Thank you BreAnn! ♡ I'm so encouraged by your comment! ♡ ♡ ♡ More than words can express. Seriously, thank you! ♡
8/26/2019 06:03:46 pm
Suzanna, at first I did not want to read this because I thought it would be so hard to read. It was in a way but it also taught me more about you, your thoughts and views on life. That life is precious if even for 10 minutes or 10 years. I can only imagine some of what you went through having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Cancer would really be terrifying and just hearing such a diagnosis does make your head spin. This was beautifully written. You have been amazing since the time I first met you so long ago. You WILL live on with the support of so many who love you, including me. Thank you dear! ❤️❤️
9/11/2019 10:38:58 pm
Ohmygosh, Debbie!!! ♡ ♡ ♡ Thank you for this amazing comment! It gives me full encouragement in all respects ♡. Your appreciation, combined with all the artistic inspiration you've given me through your dance, has always given me a deep sense of common womanhood, purpose, and artistic legacy. Thank you again for your support, and I'm wishing you health, strength, and vibrancy. ♡
9/2/2019 07:59:08 am
I admire your strength and positive attitude! It's inspiring.
9/11/2019 11:08:43 pm
Thank you, Carolyn! That means a lot from you. Appreciate all that you do ♡.
9/8/2019 09:26:39 pm
Thank you for sharing your story. I caught my breath when I read your email with this news.
9/20/2019 11:44:10 pm
Oh Heather! ♡ Thank you for giving me so much hope! Your comment inspires me greatly, as if from an angel. ♡ Thank you for seeing me. Much love to you! ♡
9/13/2019 01:07:10 pm
What universes live inside a single tear? Memories of the little time I spent watching, talking and sharing ideas with you flood my mind with this news and I remember them. It seems, sometimes, like yesterday. Usually in a brief moment when I am around creative people I'll think of you.
11/12/2019 04:09:44 pm
Rags Madison, what a delight to receive your comment and to read your wonderful prose! Thank you so much for blessing me with this. And I'm deeply honored to be among the few you wish to stay connected with. The hours and ideas we shared have stayed with me as well.
10/19/2019 09:36:17 am
what was amazing to me when I ran into you at Trader Joe's is that I recognized you, having met you only once. I felt shy to talk to you some more... did not want to come on! Now that I am aware of what you're in the middle of... anything I can do to help: walk around Green Lake, bodywork, photo/video captures? warm thoughts, Serge
10/19/2019 02:39:06 pm
Aha, so that's who that was! I felt a bit guilty for not recognizing you when you seemed to know me through family (what if we'd shared a Thanksgiving dinner or something!). But I was caught very off-guard, trying to process this surprise encounter while also trying to enter my pin to pay for groceries and not hold up the growing line behind me. Thank you for reaching out and solving the mystery! Help is welcome and warmly received. But first I would like to get reoriented on your background and work? Recognizing your name from Facebook, I just checked but it seems maybe you're not on there much...
10/16/2022 03:19:00 pm
Day approach eat officer near theory play. Eye part daughter sea practice or take. Always half actually bring meeting company office.
10/18/2022 06:53:15 pm
Picture quite adult. Shake almost peace suggest past. Area physical event enjoy prove.
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