Cancer strips us of ourselves and everything that we once called normal. It takes control our lives and kicks us while we are already down. Over and over again! Its goal is to destory! It changes who we are inside and out. Whenyou don’t think things can get worse, cancer proves to us that it can in fact get worse. When you thought you had problems and things were bad cancer shows you what bad really is and how petty those worries that consumed you once were.
For me personally cancer made me stop and smell the flowers to be thankful for each new day. To shake off the little things and not worry so much about the small things. By that I mean, my life was constantly go go go. The year before I got cancer I swore to be the worst time of my life. I was stressed about many things. But that is life! You will never know how good something is unless you also know how bad it could be. What once seemed to be the end of the world becomes petty compared to fighting for your life back!
Of course cancer was the last thing I thought I would be facing. After a rough year and deciding to let our home of 14 years go back followed by my daughter eating meth and my mom going to jail for it, I had plans for a new beginning and new path ano focus on happiness and family. We were so lucky not to lose our baby girl!
My life was already chaotic but normal for a mother of four. Between the kids, sports, other activities, selling items online and last running my family’s restaurant and helping my Grandpa with rental property and keeping the restaurant going and so on, I never stopped. But I didnt care! Love to keep busy or I get bored fast. Never been the type to sit at home and do nothing. I was always going. Always had some place to go or something to do and never enough time to accomplish it all!
My husband and I rarely took time to ourselves to relax and just get a break from the craziness. We didn’t go out hardly ever without kids. My life was my kids and after my last child I just felt selfish going out on the weekend or being away from them. I also neglected my own needs and constantly put myself on the back burner. It seemed natural to put others first and if there was time for me at the end of the day great if not hey that was great too. Even as little as getting hair cut seemed like a chore and hard to fit in my schedule! After getting all of the kids hair cuts and what they needed I felt hey I will get me next time. This wasnt just with hair cuts it was everything. So much everything that I wasnt seeing how my stress was taking it out of me. After mu genetic testing came back that I was not a carrier of the cancer gene and my cancer said to have been caused by environmental issues which includes the way we live, what we eat & drink, etc that was basically a wake up call. Stress may not have been the key component but it definitely was part of it and definitely didn’t help.
I couldn’t sleep one night because of the pain in my arm pit. I finally got up and that was when I found the lump. October 13, 2017. A Friday night. I remember that because that whole weekend I worried and kept checking and hoping the lump was gone. I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I could have found a million excuses not to but the worry was eating at me. I always put things off if it’s about me and say oh maybe it will get better or whatever the situation but this time I was the complete opposite. I couldn’t wait for Monday morning to make an appointment.
All though I knew after being diagnosed with cancer that was my first worry. How am I going to fit cancer into my schedule? How will I be the person I need to be to all of these other people if I have to worry about me everyday and have to have the power to get myself out of this alive, how the hell was this going to work? Like I can be going to the doctor more days a week than I work or than I am being a mother and doing stuff with kids? I don’t have time for this!! I have kids who need me to be at everything and I have obligations. I barely had time to come get this lump looked at. How am I going to fit in a cancer battle? And then I had that moment of reality. I have no choice. This can go one of two ways. I can do what I have to do to beat this or I can let it beat me. How could I ever be there for my kids or anyone else if I let cancer win. If I live normal and refuse the treatment “because I don’t have time” or for whatever reason than who knows how long until it would spread and win. I just found it and it had already mestated (spread) into 3 of the 8 lyphnodes that were removed and biopsied. Making it invasive cancer and at a stage 3 because of that and the size. Being it was only in 3 we hoped it had got stopped there in the lyphnodes and not spread anyplace else. Several tests were ahead to make sure before treatment. And if that being the case it wasnt any place else I was looking at the least a year to get through treatments and surgery etc until it was in remission. That was a lot to take in. Because I was also told reoccurrence prevention was needed for 7 years posssibly 10 because I was so young. From day one all of this I accepted and didnt question besides the 7 to 10 years being forced into medical menopause. I have to go through hell for a year and have my life stripped and to put the cherry on top I get to go through menopause for possibly a decade. I argued and wanted to know the statistics. Is living with those side effects worth the percent that it could come back. I hated the thought. I finally was able to push that fear and worry away and deal with what was in front of me that moment and when that time came then I could face it at that time.
Cancer doesn’t wait for a convenient time to come. It doesn’t care what else a person has going on in life. It comes to those who are young and those who are old, some are single and others are married, there is those who are parents and even those who are just someones child. Cancer does not discriminate and comes with no warning. You don’t have a choice. Sometimes we find it before it is too late while others it stays sneaky enough to consume you before you ever know and there no way to fight. Know your body and be aware of changes. You could be next. Cancer chooses its victimes! Not you or me.
It slowly takes and takes. Strips the life you once knew in the blink of an eye. It consumes your thoughts, takes away your sleep and fills your brain with so much with fear. You become overwhelmed with overload of information about the cancer diagnosis and the plan and choices you are looking at. You are thrown so much in such a quick time. Then there are choices that you have to make. Some include: do I remove 1 or both breasts and in some cases some can just remove the lump depending location and size. But still the choice is yours. No woman by law has to do one thing or another. Then if you have a mastectomy the decision of reconstruction at that time which means an 8 to 12 hour surgery or you can go flat with reconstruction after treatment or no reconstruction at all. Those who need radiation have a lot harder and longer process for reconstruction but, the decisions to make are endless and seem like they never stop. After taking everything in and then being given so many choices that should be made in fairly timely matter it gets beyond overwhelming. The anxiety and pressure is a huge weight on the whole family. At times you almost feel as though you’re drowning and as soon as you think you can breath and made it up to air you get pushed back down. Meanwhile all you can do is research all the options until you have scared the hell out of yourself and usually you want to get a second opinion which is good to ease the mind as well, but the clock keeps ticking and the major decisions need to be made sooner than later. The quicker the better
There are so many types of cancer and stages and levels and how each of us reacts is totally different and one persons treatment plan can be totally different than the next.
What to me was the best decision for me may not be the best for someone else. Our doctors give us their opinions which are based off of a percentage of similar situations. I always went with what my gut told me. I second guessed myself in the beginning and soon came to realize no one knows me like me. I need to do what I am comfortable with. The original oncologist I had did not like my decision to have a double mastectomy. He did not even try to hear my point of view or understand how I felt and why that was my decision. He insisted that that was a huge surgery that I should not put myself through. He had nothing positive to say about my decision and made me hate even going to see him. I also decided I wanted surgery before chemo. That choice he did not agree with either. But I just wanted the cancer out of my body. I felt like the surgery would be the hardest part and the sooner I tackle i and get it done the better. I didn’t want to be beat down from 6 to 8 months of treatments and then have to face a huge surgery. That made it all seem harder. I wanted to go into surgery healthy and with my strong immune system where i would bounce back before starting chemo. Needless to say I got a new oncologist after all the disagreeing and him not acting like what I felt mattered. To have success in this journey I knew I had to be happy with the oncologist. He had to understand me and care about my concerns and my thoughts and take time to hear me out and make sure I am comfortable with it all. I felt none of that. I was going to have to look at this guy for the next 7 to possibly 10 years so I knew I had to request a new oncologist.
After doing so things seemed to go much smoother and he didn’t disagree with my choices and understood me! After having the double mastectommy chance of reoccurrence was lowered from 28% to 11%. Nothing is promised but being 36 years old at the time and having a lump in my other breast, to me it was mostly the peace of mind if having ur gone that I needed. That way I wouldn’t have that constant worry of the lump becoming cancer.
The day I got that life changing call will be one of those days I never forget. I was at work when the doctor called. She asked me to go some place quiet and sit down. Enough said I knew my biopsy results were positive. I went out back at work with my husband and we spit it on speaker as she explained my diagnosis. We both were in tears. In shock. Devastated. My first question was, “Am I going to die? Is this curable?” I was in a state of delusion. I had thought I prepared myself for bad news but is there really anyway to be prepared for news like that?
I was told my survival rate was great. I just had a long, tough journey ahead and several different things they needed to find out before we took the next step. I had blood work and tests and scans over the next few weeks. Finally because of the type of cancer neither chemo or surgery were recommended to be the first step. It was my Choice as it was to remove one or both of my breasts. During that next month my brain turned to mush. I questioned myself and if I was making the right choices. Normal decisions and everyday things became difficult. I was on overload. I told my husband it was time to step up and take all of the decision making and he did.
That is the first thing cancer took! My sanity.
My surgery was the day after Christmas. About 7 to 8 weeks after my bipsy. I had to quit smoking and have it put of my system before my surgeon would do the reconstructive surgery at the same time O had the mastectomy. I know quitting smoking is the best thing I did but cancer also took my stress reliever.
My cigarettes were the second thing cancer took! The most stressful time of my life and I was going to have to stop smoking. Sounded impossible but I wanted reconstructive surgery I didn’t want to wait and have to have it on another date if I quit. I wanted it now and I just wanted the tumor out of me. So I did what had to be done. I quit. There was no taking it. The doctor does urine sample to make sure that the body is free of nicotine before surgery. It takes 21 days to rid it from the body. I didn’t have time to mess around. I quit and passed the test and my surgery was scheduled. I then had to decide if I would try to save the nipples or have them removed. Being that my cancer started in my milk ducts I opted to not try and save them. Not worth the risk. Take it all!!
My reality was hard to wrap my mind around at times. But that morning when I arrived for surgery it got that much more real. There was no going back. This is when cancer took my breasts. They were small someone said so it probably isn’t that big of a deal right? Losing any part of your body for any reason traumatic. Big or small, my boobs were my boobs!! They were part of me! I didn’t ask for them to try and kill me. This isn’t just a boon job I am going to encounter. This is both of my breast and all of the insides being scraped out and what they call expanders being put in the place of where my old breasts were. I was pretty well medicated for the first several weeks after surgery. I made a point not to look at myself in the mirror. I knew I wasn’t ready to see the new me. It was 3 weeks before I looked. By that time I had healed tremendously so the shock of seeing myself like that was not so bad. Cancer had now taken the third and fourth thing from me! My breasts and my nipples.
I had 5 weeks to recover and then the next step was chemo. I chose to do the red devil every other week instead of every third week like most people do. I was healthy and could handle doing it this way my doctor said so anything to speed up the process. My hair began coming out in lumps after treatment number 1. I was due to go back for my second treatment 14 days after my first but my hair situation had me down. I ended up waiting to go until the next week to give me time to get myself together and my hair situation figured out. I cut it very short about 2 days after it started falling out. By day 16 I couldn’t even run my fingers through my hair or a brush without out handfuls of hair coming out. This is difficult to watch and deal with. I couldn’t take another day! I told my husband I couldn’t bear to let anyone else shave it but it had to be done. I sent him to buy clippers and locked myself in the bathroom. Tears rolled down my face and I balled through every second of it but in the end I felt a huge relief. Losing my hair was one of my biggest fears. I got through it. I had a few wings given to me and they were much easier to deal with now that I was bald. I spent the next several days trying to get the feel and how to manage the wigs.
Cancer has now taken the fifth thing, my hair. I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror I didn’t recognize the person whom was looking back. I was disgusted and I didn’t want to leave my house. Of I disgusted myself than all I could think about is how much I would disgust others that knew me. It was quite the challenge. But I overcame it.
As chemo went on I gained lots of weight. Almost 30 lbs. Weighing more than I have ever in my life. That’s when cancer took my confidence. It became non existent. But the only thing that settled an upset stomach was food. The only thing I looked forward to was food. I decided this was only temporary just do what is best for now. And each week I weighed more but I got used to my new self Was it how I wanted to be forever, no but my focus right then was fighting and beating the cancer
After both rounds of chemo I got a short break before radiation. I took that time to be active and get out and do as much things as I could before radiation. I started feeling so much better and accomplishing things made me feel good!
Cancer just keeps taking and keeps taking. You wonder if there is ever an end. But now looking back I think cancer didn’t take what really matters! Yes it took all of those things and my time and my energy and it stripped me of my life temporarily but I am still here. I am still alive and not all people are that lucky. I remember myself locking myself in the bathroom at night while everyone is asleep and crying until I couldn’t cry anymore and that is okay and it helped get me through but now I look back and think how lucky I am. How lucky I was to be able to go through all of those things and be able to fight it. Some people aren’t and their lives are cut way too short. So while I was being a cry baby about my hair or my breasts or the situation itself there is a child who won’t have their mom see them graduate because cancer took them away. Cancer is a disease that takes and takes. Not only from the one who was diagnosed but from all those who love them. It is a battle that the whole family must fight.
I had a great support system and loving husband by my side through it all and for that I am also grateful. I got to slow down life and focus on what really matters. What I have been through is nothing compared to others. Yes it has been traumatic and life changing to say the least but being alive and able to tell about it makes it all worth every second. I know the depression will come and go and I know it will be a long road ahead but my life is worth the fight! I will think of how lucky I am when those thoughts of why ne come along. I will think how lucky I am to say I beat this! Cancer may have taken many of things from me and stripped my life away for over a year but I can put that into the past! Cancer didn’t take me! I am a new and improved version that sees life in a much better perspective! As much as I would love to be the old me again I have accepted that that will never be the case. I will never feel or look the same. I will never be who I once was! But instead of being upset over it or questioning why this had to happen I am going to learn to be the best new me possible. I will learn to live with all the side effects chemo and radiation left behind and I will overcome them and be grateful for every day I am here and that in the end cancer didn’t get what it wanted! I WON and I am taking my life back!!! Don’t let cancer win for all of you out their fighting cancer throws so much negative and takes so much but it is temporary and there is an end! I promise!! I am proof! My end is not here but I have came so far and went through so many obstacles that seemed like they would never be over. Be grateful for the little things and take time to appreciate what you have in front of you! Tomorrow is never promised and things can change in the blink of an eye!!
When you have no choice but to fight than you fight!! The things that you may lose along the way are all of just that, THINGS, some replaceable some not. But if you win that battle the most precious thing of all is not taken. Maybe temporarily but not forever! That is your life! You can get it back! The battle is not easy and it seems impossible at times but in the end all that matter is being alive and in control of life again!!!