My first Guardian Angel that I painted during chemo.
My blog entries are all meant to begin B is for... I’ve had a difficult time recently coming up with “B” words, and I realized it’s partly because there is a “B” word elephant in the room. BREAST CANCER. With the Grand Haven American Cancer Society Relay For Life event coming up in just a couple of weeks, I figured I’d get this post out of the way. Maybe if I do, future entries will come more easily. When you walk during the Relay For Life Survivors lap you get a purple SURVIVOR shirt. I am fortunate to have collected a few, and I plan to keep every single one that I get. I’ve earned them.
In 2007 I had a mammogram which showed a spot in my left breast. I was immediately given more tests which included a needle biopsy. Like many people, I do not like needles put into my body at all, so I dreaded the test. “It’s probably nothing,” I’m told. A few days later I sat in the doctor’s office, alone, waiting to hear the results. “Well, you do have cancer. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s completely contained and we’ll be able to get it all out with good clear margins. We’ll also send you to an oncologist to determine if radiation is needed.” Just so you know, when a doctor tells you that you have cancer, the rest of the information coming at you sounds just like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Remember that Wha – Wha – Wha - Wha? I think the first person I called was brother in law, asking him to have my sister call me. I barely remember going to mom’s to break the news to her. She had enough on her plate; my stepfather wasn’t doing very well either.
I haven’t mentioned yet that my father was dying of cancer at the same time all this was happening. Dad and I were having lunch one day and I asked him what it was like to hear that you have cancer. He said, “It just makes me so damn mad, because I love my life.” He did too.
Surgery was booked for a lumpectomy and shortly after I was to begin weeks of radiation. Surgery took place on a Tuesday, just 2 days after my dad’s memorial service. We even had some of the same doctors. Only I had become the patient, not the one driving and sitting with the patient. Getting prepped for radiation is a daunting process, tattoos are given, molds are made, so much needs to be done to make sure the radiation points exactly where it needs to.
Fast forward to September 2009, something suspicious has been going on and I schedule a mammogram. My coworker has been battling breast cancer and after I tell her what’s going on with me, she tears up, and makes me promise to get one on the calendar The specialist examining quickly got her game face on and I am once again led to the little room in the back. More like the holding cell. More tests. “It’s probably nothing,” I’m told. Really!? Yea... that line has become my least favorite sentence to hear. Please don’t ever say that to me. Ever.
So this time, same doctor CALLS me at WORK. You have a cancer, it’s a different type than before, and it’s bad... Wha – Wha – Wha – Wha...
The rest is history, double mastectomy, chemotherapy, bloody noses, blurred vision, lost hair and fingernails, shots, tests, sooooo many medications, too weak to walk across a room, memory loss, trouble with vocabulary, bladder and bowel issues, etc., etc. My fight against cancer consumed my life and those of my family and some friends.
I endured the disease and lived through the horrific poisonous treatments. Yet, I still had to face the aftermath. I remember the distinct “WHAT NOW?” feeling after treatment was over. I was sent out into the world with a pink cake and a few follow up appointments in my back pocket. There’s no one to tell you how to live after you’ve endured the ugliness of cancer, the treatments, the surgeries, chemo, radiation, expanders, reconstruction, the humiliation, the poking and prodding by others. Family and friends are weary from care-taking and the disruption to their lives. Everyone was ready for life to get back to normal ~ and so was I. It’s not that easy. Life will never be like it was before cancer.
The scars are physical and emotional. The fear is always present. I need to stay conscious of my body and to pay attention to anything that seems suspicious. I need to be mindful of my diet and stress levels. I have to accept how I look and remember to be grateful for every minute that I have, even if my eyebrows never grow back. I need to always count my blessings. But don’t we all?!?! It’s kind of like a seesaw after breast cancer. Things are great and then a bit of anxiety creeps in and works its way into that “what-if” place in my brain. I sometimes get accused jokingly of playing the “C” card, but that’s ok, I’ve earned that too. It never quite leaves you, that pink speckled mark of cancer on your life. Not to mention the deformation of your body as a result of the testings, the chemo, the radiation and the surgeries. I will never be the same. I am forever changed ~ mind, body and soul ~ and thankful to be here to get another purple tshirt.
So this entry is B is for Breast Cancer. Maybe my next one will be B is for Beyond!
Love and Light,
p.s. if you are facing a cancer diagnosis and want to talk to me, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
“It’s probably nothing,” I’m told. Really!? Yea... that line has become my least favorite sentence to hear. Please don’t ever say that to me. Ever.