A journey has a beginning and an end, keep your mind positively focused on your victorious finale!
When I was first diagnosed, I felt fear of course. But, felt a deep resolve and calm, because I knew that it was cancer. I had been told even with a palpable lump, by the Doctor who read my mammogram that I “just had very dense breast tissue.” So wanting to believe him, I waited a month and a half before I finally listened to my body, and got a second opinion. I honestly wanted a Doctor to validate what I already knew, that I had breast cancer.
I chose to listen to my “rock star” doctors team, who made it clear upon my diagnosis, that every breast cancer patient requires a treatment plan specific to their cancer and their body. We decided that for my stage II triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma, I would undergo 4 chemotherapy infusions of Taxotere, and Cytoxin, a lumpectomy, and 6 1/2 weeks of radiation. Although I had a few friends suggesting everything from Ayurvedic medicine to coffee enemas, I chose traditional “western” cancer treatment. My doctors would only go forward with my treatment after a CT scan to determine that there was no other cancer present in my body, my genetic testing confirmed that no BRCA genes were present, and all of my markers were identified, so that every possible factor could be brought into the final treatment plan. I’m so grateful for their thoroughness.
There were several! But, when I was probably 2 weeks into my radiation treatment, a neighbor walked across the street with a handful of beautiful grapefruit for us. As we were talking and she was asking about how my treatment was going, and how I was handling things, I found myself feeling very light, not lightheaded, but almost weightless. I told my neighbor that in actuality, cancer would be a “bright spot” in my life because of all of the love and support and care that I had received. I relayed that I had received so many hugs across the miles, surprise gifts in the mail, cards, just love from all directions! The most important support that I received were the smiles, and hugs and everyday care given to me by my husband and my two amazing sons that are teenagers. They were, and always will be my soft place to land.
There were many people and things that have helped me through this journey. But, I believe that my mantra “Healthy mind, Healthy Body”, is the most helpful thing that I practiced constantly throughout my cancer journey. When I was in the MRI machine, I would recite this repeatedly to drown out the clanging, banging sounds. When I would wake up with a fearful thought, I would meditate with this phrase. When I would head into work every day, I would say this to myself in my quiet moments. As I was falling under anesthesia, it would quietly echo. I knew that if I could stay positive, me getting to the end of that dark tunnel would be a journey that not only did not allow cancer to define me, but would most importantly be a story of overcoming.
I have begun to gain back my strength, and define a healthy exercise regimen for myself. One thing that I was not expecting is the atrophy that would occur in my muscles. I have always been a fit, muscular woman whose exercised in some way. So, it’s been a little daunting to look in the mirror and realize what I’ll need to do to get back to feeling fit again. But, I’m taking it slowly, and am confident that it will come. I have also tried to modify my diet and my alcohol intake as part of my arsenal to keep cancer away!
Cancer is scary, ugly, unpredictable, and completely unbiased. Hopefully, cancer will be eradicated in my lifetime. But, in the meanwhile…listen to your body and don’t let fear drive your decisions. When people want to help you, let them. It does not mean that they pity you. Often times, it’s the only thing that they can do. I think cancer can be more scary for those that love us. For them, it still falls in the “unknown” realm, leaving them feeling helpless. As much as we’d like to be on auto-pilot during painful treatment, I found that being present, and allowing myself to feel all of my feelings, made my experience less scary. And lastly, for a woman whose beautiful long, curly hair was always a source of vain pride…I found baldness empowering, like I was in some special warriors club 😉
Thank you for listening to my story.