This is a multi-part series on the events that have inspired goldsmith Jenna Bantjes on her handcrafting jewelry journey.
I was 26 years old when I got the call. "You have cancer."
Now, I don't think anyone is ever really prepared when they get that news, but at 26 it was especially unheard of to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
The lump I found- I'd had them before. "Just a fibroid", I thought. It was standard procedure to have it scanned, biopsied, and removed. Except this time it wasn't standard procedure. This time it was cancer.
The doctors didn't quite know what to do with me, given my age. I didn't quite know what to do either. I carried on as though nothing had changed because if I acknowledged it, it made it more real. I didn't tell my work. I barely told any of my friends and family. But my whole world had been thrown upside down.
I won't go too far into the medical stuff. Needless to say it was appointment after appointment, countless ultrasounds, mammograms, MRIs, and several surgeries later I was declared medically fine. I was luckier than most. They caught it early.
What did change was my outlook. One minute I'm cruising through life, staying up late and going out for drinks with my friends. The next I'm having panic attacks on my way to work, wondering quite literally if I'm going to die.
Longevity became my muse. I fell in love with jewelry because of its relative permanence. Found in shrines and tombs, on remains of the dead, or passed on through the generations, jewelry crafted from fine metal and gems will live on through the ages- stories of remembrance, celebration and loss carried with them.
The Keep Going bracelet came to be during a time when I was going through testing for a remission scare and coincidentally a colleague passed away from the same disease. It was a really sad and scary period in my life and I found it helpful to carry a little extra encouragement with me. And I figured if I found it comforting through hard times, maybe other people would too.
The cancer could come back anywhere, at any time. Call it cliche, but tomorrow is not promised, so I try to live mindfully in today and consider my legacy- the mark that one will inevitably leave on this world. I ask myself and now you: What good will you do? What will you leave behind? Whose lives will you have touched?
You really never know what the future holds.