A Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor

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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.

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First and foremost, I express gratitude to God for the Gift of Life since my Breast Cancer diagnosis in February 2008.

SEEKING ANSWERS

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?

TREATMENT

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 #3I 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

for the

Gift of Life

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Why I Blog

Seeking to expand my “Little World,” I entered the “Blogosphere World” in mid-January 2013.   Retired in 2010, my husband and I relocated to a new state thousands of miles away from children, family and friends.

Some three years later, blogging “Launched ME” into Cyberspace.”   My ever expanding “Online World” has “Opened the Door” to new people, places and things all around the world.   Blogging allows “ME to be ME.”  Blogging is the “Voice” that had remained silent for many, many years due to my own self-inflicted anxiety and low self-esteem.

Though, I am a novice blogger, my confidence level is growing daily.   Why – the people, who have supported, aided and guided me since I embarked on this new journey.

  • First, thank you to those who “visited, liked and/or commented” on my posts.  I am grateful and appreciate your taking the time to enter my “Online World.”
  • Second, to those bloggers “I follow,” thankful and appreciative for your enlightening and informative posts.
  • Finally, a “special thank you” to Misifusa’s Blog, http://misifusa.wordpress.com.  I look forward to reading your posts.  I connect with you on a personal level — a “Sister Breast Cancer Survivoras well as your February 19, 2013 “What’s in a Name” post.

So to my new Blogosphere friends the following are a few  —-

Random Facts About Me

  • I am one of the 198,682 people in the U.S. with the first name Yvonne
  • My daily routine upon rising, is writing my “Morning Gratitude Note.”  Beginning with “Bless be the Day for ME and Mine,” and generally followed with a word or sentence expressing why I am grateful.   This note is placed into my “Gratitude Jar.” 

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  • Nightly, just before retiring, I write in my online Gratitude Journal” five things that happened during the day for which I am grateful.  I finish with, “Blessed be the Night for ME and Mine.”   If expressing gratitude to a specific person, place, or thing, I attach related digital photos.

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  • Unrealistic FEAR prevents “ME” from performing monthly self-breast exams.  For the past five years, I have lied to my oncologist when asked the dreaded question about self-breast exams.  Hope, sharing this fact in “Blogosphere” will rid “ME” of this phobia.

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  • I meditate for thirty minutes every day for relaxation and inner peace.
  • On my special “Sabbath Day,” which can be any day during the week, I choose to do only what honors, pleases and uplifts “ME.”

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  • I blog because it makes “ME” happy.
  • I took my first Yoga class this past week.
  • When someone or something enters my space and creates toxicity, my inner voice says either:  (1) “This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalms 118.22 (NIV), or (2) “I will not allow anyone to steal my joy.”  Then, I will immediately seek a way to disengage.

Loving This Season of My Life!!!!

Dedicated to A Breast Cancer Warrior

Mentor, best friend, and the sister God placed in my life shortly after I married her younger brother more than 52 years ago, died in December of 1988 after a long battle with Stage IV Breast Cancer.  During her four-year fight to survive, I never heard one complaint.  With confidence, I can say every one who watched her go through the repetitive rounds of chemotherapy; radiation treatments and hospitalizations will agree that she exemplified all the following “Pink Warrior Symbols.”

    • Power and Courage
    • Plants for Life, Growth and Survival
    • A Feather for Kinship
    • A Dove for Peace in the Battle
    • War Paint, Showing Readiness to Battle
    • A Tree for Love, Standing Tall
    • A Heart, for Standing Strong
    • Angel Wings, to Honor Those Who Have Died

Four years my senior, she was the big sister I dreamed of growing up as an only child.  What a Blessing!!!  I was gifted with the opportunity to spend quality time with this very, very special person during the last days of her life

You see, in August of 1988, my husband invited her to live with us in Madison, Wisconsin.  She had reached a point where she needed around-the-clock care.  The two of us cared for her evenings and weekends. Her daughter, brother, sister, cousin, nieces, nephews, and aunt provided care on weekdays.  Fortunately, all of them lived in Madison and were available during the day due to retirement, student status, evening work, or paid time off usage.  Our family knew she would prefer a home setting rather than a sterile hospital room.   Although the spare bedroom, in order to accommodate her needs, was set up much like a hospital room with a hospital bed, over-the-bed table, and oxygen tank.   Yet, it was a lived-in home environment.  Family members were providing the needed care.

The best reasons for her move to Madison.  It placed her in the same city as her youngest child, a daughter, who graduated from high school in June of 1988.  She was scheduled to start classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Fall 1988 semester. Though away from her own home, she was able to maintain a close connection with her husband and adult son.  Madison is only a three-hour drive from Chicago.

On November 25, 1988, she celebrated her 50th Birthday in our spare bedroom.  Less than three weeks later, she quietly passed away in this small spare bedroom surrounded by members of her nuclear, extended family and close friends.

This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Shirley Mae Thomas Conda, a Breast Cancer Warrior, who bravely fought the fight, but lost the battle.

Through the many seasons of my life, I have faced my share of trials and tribulations.   However, nothing challenged me more than the diagnosis of Breast Cancer in February 2008.

Thank you Shirley.  You were still my “role model, some 20 years later” as I went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.   Being in your presence as you fought Breast Cancer, continues to give me the courage to fight this condition for which there is still no known cure.

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On this 5th Anniversary as A Breast Cancer Survivor,  I am:

  • Thankful for my husband, children, grandchildren, extended family members, PMTC family, and friends who went beyond anyone’s expectations in sharing their love and support as I went through the early, and sometimes scary times, of my cancer treatments.

Finally, I give praise and honor to God.  Thanking Him for bringing me this far.