We met at the corner of 8th Avenue and 40th Street in New York at a Dean & Deluca coffee shop. I recognized her immediately from her Facebook photo, a beautiful woman in her late 40s with long brown hair and a radiant smile. She looks like my cousins. She said I look like her sister. We had instant familiarity, even though we had only met a few weeks ago online.
Cyndi Freeman found me on the internet. Her story is similar to mine in that we both have sisters who battled breast cancer and have been told by doctors of our high risk of getting the disease in our lifetime. Cyndi lives in New York and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I just happened to be heading to New York the week after she contacted me, so I suggested we meet in person.
Cyndi and I are not just alike in our high risk of the disease, but more importantly in the path we have chosen with this knowledge. Despite being told by doctors that we should consider preventative surgeries and toxic medications, we both have decided to live our most healthy life with active surveillance. It is not an easy road when you make a decision contrary to what doctors tell you. And, unfortunately, there is not an active support group for our course of action, but rather for the recommended course. Thus, finding and supporting each other was a big deal for us.
(Note: This is not a blog about my high risk or course of action, so I won’t go into detail here about it. However, if you want to know more about my story and choices, you can read about it in my book or on my website).
Cyndi and I connected immediately and talked for the next hour with such comfort, as if we had known each other for years. Both of our lives changed from finding out about our high risk. Cyndi had been working as a comedian and actress. When she found out about her high risk, she decided to combine the two and become a burlesque dancer (her stage name is Cherry Pitz). Cyndi describes burlesque dancing as a combination between comedy and striptease; she says it is fun and artsy. She decided she wanted to celebrate her breasts. Cyndi says, “I want my boobs feeling so good about themselves that they don't want to get sick.”
When I returned home, I sent Cyndi a copy of my book since it was the tangible product of my journey and I knew she would especially relate to a few chapters that were personal to our story. Cyndi thanked me for the book and offered to make me some breast tassels in return—the tangible result of her journey!
I never even knew what a burlesque dancer was before I met Cyndi. I had to look it up on the Internet. And, I’ve certainly never thought about wearing tassels on my breasts. In the past, I would have thought “What?!” but instead, I replied , “Sure!” What other opportunity would I have to get tassels? I don’t plan to wear the tassels publicly, but why not say yes? Why not be open to and embrace all ways of life, even if it seems outside of my comfort zone or what I know.
For most of my life I have been a very private person. I don’t share a lot of what is going on in my head or heart with others. When I began writing the book, there was no mention of my story. As I got further along in the publishing process, I received feedback from early readers and agents that it was important to share my story to help people connect to me and what I was writing.
At first I felt very uncomfortable with it. I shared a little at first, became comfortable with that, and then shared more. With the publishing of the book, my story is out there. I’m out there. For someone who has been as private as I have for 40 years, it still seems surreal that I wrote a book, have a blog and website, and share myself the way I have.
What I have gotten in return from my sharing and opening is such an unexpected gift. I find myself connecting with people on a much deeper level than I ever have. I realize that as I open up to people, they open up more to me. And the connection goes so much further below the surface.
My word for this year in my 2-0-1-4 Plan is “Openness.” I chose that word because I want to continue on this journey of being open to everyone. Not judging anyone. Sharing my full, authentic, imperfect self with others and letting them share themselves with me.
Being friends with a burlesque dancer is not something that would have come my way if I had not opened myself up and shared my story. We never would have known we had common ground by the outward showing of our lives.
I’ve only just begun on this journey of connecting with people on a new level and I’m looking forward to what is to come.
Are you someone who puts your guard up or finds yourself judging others without knowing their story? If so, come walk with me on this path of opening your heart and mind and let’s see where it will take us.
Please share your questions and comments below.
Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at
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