First in a Series of Four Posts
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And, I am a Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor choosing to share my journey by: (1) stepping outside of my comfort zone; (2) moving beyond the “mere act” of wearing pink; and (3) writing this blog series.
First and foremost, I express gratitude to God for the Gift of Life since my Breast Cancer diagnosis in February 2008.
In the early stages of my journey, frustration, anger, fear, and depression prevented me from expressing gratitude and appreciation to God or anyone else. Instead, I was seeking answers —
- HOW? I had a clean mammogram seven months ago.
- WHY? There is no history of breast cancer in my family.
- WHAT? Is my survival rate?
While I never received a clear medical answer to the HOW and WHY; my five-year survival rate is 97% based on the success of the following treatments:
- Lumpectomy (Left Breast) – removal of the cancer and some of the normal breast tissue around it. (Medline Plus)
- Chemotherapy – IV Injection, eights hours one day per week, for 12 weeks
- Radiation – Five days per week for eight weeks.
Prior to the Lumpectomy procedure, they warned me about the possible pronounced and disfiguring breast asymmetry. For me, this was not an issue. At the time of diagnosis, I was 66-years-old, married to Hubby for more than 48 years, and knew HE would continue to love ME as well as MY lumpy and disfigured left breast. The size difference between my breasts never concerned me. If I had been younger, it might have been different.
Beyond the five daily treatments, irritating skin burns, and feeling worn out; there were no significant problems with Radiation therapy.
I faced several challenges during the Chemotherapy phase.
- Challenge #1 – After working for almost two years coordinating a Family Reunion scheduled to take place in our city, I could not attend. Two days earlier, based on lab findings, the Oncologist placed me on home quarantine; and I was told to continuously wear a surgical mask. Not because I was dangerous to “others,” but “others” were dangerous to ME. Feeling miserable and alone with over 200 family members arriving for a full weekend of fun and activities, Hubby and the Middle-Aged Kids allowed those who were closest to visit me at home for a short time. No hugging, no touching, no bodily contact and they were only allowed to stand outside of my bedroom door. Not sure if my Oncologist would have approved. But, in this case the benefits outweighed the risk – at least I thought so.
- Challenge #2 – I did not complete the full 12 weeks of therapy as ordered. In Week #7 the Oncologist cancelled my chemo; after, I reported unusual sensations in my feet and toes. The Oncologist said this was a side effect of one of the chemo drugs. I was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Pain). I knew there were side effects. But, the benefits of the chemo drugs outweighed the risks. So, I now must live with another chronic condition for which there is no known cure.
- Challenge #3 – I was depressed. It was difficult to watch my hair fall out braid-by-braid, a little more everyday, and, finally total baldness. Eventually, I was able to overcome the depression by repeating over and over the proverb, “This too will pass.
Ever Grateful to God
Gift of Life