The cancer journey involves three stages: diagnosis, treatment and life after.
Diagnosis: This is the beginning, when you hear those three little words and realize your life will never be the same. Following diagnosis, there is a real surge of support from people around you and there is a building of strength within you.
Treatment: Treatment involves a core support group and an all out fight on your part. During the fight, you temper your emotions by focusing on the end goal: survival.
Life after: Once you have made it through your course of treatment (or in my case, almost made it through), your emotions come back stronger than ever. That alone would be hard to deal with but combine it with the fact that many people believe life should just be normal for you again, and you start to feel very alienated. This is also when there is a sharp drop-off in support.
I currently fall somewhere in between the treatment stage and the life after stage. I still have at least six months of treatment ahead of me. After that, I will have a mammogram and ultrasound every year and pray that my cancer doesn't return. But for me, cancer will never be completely out of my life and there is no way around that.
Unless you've had cancer, you cannot truly understand what this feels like. Cancer is not something I can just "put behind" me. This is not something I'll "get over" in a few years. I understand people are trying to be positive and encouraging when they say these things, but it tends to have an opposite effect. It makes me feel sad and alone.
This is not to put blame or guilt on anyone. I am just trying to express what I have been through and what I have heard from other cancer survivors.
Do I want to move forward? Absolutely. But I still very much feel like I am in the thick of it and I know that even once I am out of the woods, I will still have worries when I do self exams and anxiety when I have doctor appointments.
In addition to dealing with new or worse anxieties, there are other unseen side effects. For example, Sunday I had horrible aches all over. All I could do was sleep. I couldn't figure out what was happening, as I really had no other symptoms. Then I realized: it was my neuropathy. I thought it was gone and I was free, but I found out it can come back at anytime, for the rest of my life.
What other symptoms might a breast cancer survivor experience? Stabbing breast pain, lymphedema, loss of mobility, anemia, depression, foggy brain, body image issues, suicidal thoughts, exhaustion and/or insomnia, weight gain and difficulty getting back into shape, loneliness ... the list goes on and on.
The reason I share all of this is not to elicit sympathy-- it is honestly to raise awareness. I am sure we all know several people who have had or who currently have cancer. We need to be sensitive to their needs. Is there some small way we can show we care? Can we send a text or a note? Is there something bigger that can be done to alleviate one of the burdens they are facing? I'm asking myself and I'm asking you all -- what can we do to help those among us who are facing this horrible beast we know as cancer?
I love you all and I am incredibly thankful for the support you've given me. I hope this simply encourages more empathy and support for those around us.
Updates & Prayer Requests:
The plan to start my first cycle of Xeloda on July 1st fell through (my insurance rejected it twice, but it's sorted out now). I will be starting tomorrow Saturday, July 6th. I will start with a slightly lower dose, to make sure my body can handle it. Please pray all goes well.
My follow up appointment to see how I am tolerating the chemo is scheduled for July 16th. If need be, I will go in sooner.
Ricky and I went out to dinner for the first time since my diagnosis, thanks to a gift card from Bella Moda LLC. Thank you so much!
I have a dear friend's wedding coming up in two weeks that I absolutely want to be able to attend. Please pray that this chemo doesn't impact my ability to be there!
November 1st will be my 6 month post radiation mammogram and ultra sound.
Thank you so much to those who have contributed to my Recovery Registry! Through this program, Mend After provides an opportunity to support cancer survivors emotionally and physically.
I hope you all are having a wonderful summer!
All my love,
*To learn more about how you can support your family and friends who have cancer: