As I write this it has been approximately three weeks since my initial diagnosis. What could I have possibly learned in three weeks time? More than I ever wanted to, that’s what.
Ready? Set. GO!
What I’ve Learned About Breast Cancer Three Weeks In
* Every breast cancer is different.
* Every treatment is different.
* Every person who has breast cancer experiences it differently.
* A well-timed pom-pom balloon is a joy. Go learn how to make one from my incredibly sweet friend, Haeley. She hand-delivered this badboy while I slept Sunday afternoon away.
* While your experience can be helpful to those newly diagnosed, refrain from sharing your war stories until asked. The time will come, just not in the beginning.
* Yes, many women still die from breast cancer: About 40,000 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2014 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.
* Many many women live with or after a breast cancer diagnosis. Survival rates: All breast cancers: 89% at 5 years; 82% at 10 years; 77% at 15 years
* Looking at stats makes me queasy.
* Google is NOT your friend when looking for possible side-effects to chemo drugs.
* The first weeks after diagnosis feel longer, like we’ve lived a year in the span of 21 days.
* There will be joy, no matter your circumstance. Some days you just gotta search a bit harder. Chemo can equal mouth sores or tenderness and Popsicles can help. The cherry ones are still great lipstick alternatives. JOY!
* The good comes back. Even in these three short weeks, after all the bawling and fear, you’ll regain your grip and the good will seep back into everyday life.
* Then you’ll bawl again. And be afraid again.
* Good friends. These are the people, this is your tribe, that will save you in too many ways to list.
* Love conquers all.
* I’ve made my peace. Garry has made his peace. Our will is to live and to live well. Yet, life is terminal. Each one of is going to go eventually. If this is my time (I have been told over and over by my medical team that it is not), then His will be done, not mine.
* Making your peace doesn’t mean you won’t beg for the very best news about your diagnosis. Professional beggar…is that a thing? Cause, I’m reaaaally good at it.
* When I tell you I’m having a good day, you can believe me.
* I probably won’t tell you when I’m having a bad day until after it’s over. I’m a crawl away and lick my wounds alone kinda gal. But afterwards? ALL THE WORDS!
* Have a private hidey hole where your closest friends and you can hang and be completely vulnerable and emotionally nekkid. It’s important that you hear the words of love (or see the side-eye of your bone-headedness) from those you trust with your life. #shimmylifeline
* The love, the support, the care and concern from others, in the most unexpected ways, will bring you to your knees in thanksgiving. If you play your cards right (playing the cancer card?! NOT RIGHT! right?) you might get that pony you’ve always wanted.
* Or a gator. Cause, you know, I have…
* Your humor will go dark, much like your hair regrowth after chemo. Or so I hear.
* PEOPLE! HEAR ME! I will not be wearing a wig. I will not be a scarf wrapper. I’ll most likely wear my ball caps. Or not. This hair thing. Or more accurately, this losing my hair thing…it’s temporary. I’m good with it. It’s the outward sign of my bar fight. If I have to smash this beer bottle on the bar (lose my hair) to win, that’s what will happen. I can live with it.
* Boy has offered to send me a sombrero with a scraggly black wig attached.
* Have fun. Laugh. Oops, crying. Laugh again. #mynewlife
* I get nauseated every time I walk into the Cancer Center. I hope this changes with time. The logical part of me knows this is where I win the fight, but the emotional part of me takes on the fight of everyone around me. It’s a lot of emotion that simply wants to exit my body by a good shudder and heave.
* Colorful fun paper flowers help. Look at these beauties! (Haeley is a crafting wiz)
* I’ve spent my entire life with an eye on my health. I’ve never done drugs. I eat healthy foods (yes, yes, I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but trust me, I eat way more good than bad). I’ve been running for over 40 years. I’ve been lifting for over 30. I avoid harsh chemicals. I’ve never smoked, with the exception of a few cigars (the image!). I am a positive optimistic laughy gal. Yet, this is my second bout with cancer. Go figure. My surgeon said, almost right off the bat, that there is no sense in trying to figure out the why of having cancer, because, while there is some science that allows us to draw conclusions on things that benefit us vs things that are detrimental for us, there is no way to know what caused my cells to mutate unchecked. Could be that lighting has just struck me twice (NO MORE!).
Some may look at all the things I have done to prevent cancer from happening to me as an excuse to disregard the benefits of all my hard work. STOP IT! I am entering this fight on the top tier of health, which translates to better outcomes and possibly an easier road of tolerating side-effects. My efforts have not been in vain.
* DO NOT tell people who have cancer your theories about why they have cancer. If docs who are driving the bus of cutting edge research on cancer say, “no one knows for sure why you have cancer,” then the Internet sure as hell doesn’t know either. Folks dealing with cancer need your love and care, not Dr. Google breathing down their neck.
* I did ask “why me” once after my diagnosis, but it was more for how this would effect my family. On my own, I can handle what comes my way. Throw in my family and I’m mush.
* More frequently I’ve been asking “why me” in regards to these things: I have good insurance. I can pay for treatment. I have a full-on supportive family. I have a sea of supportive friends. Over and over, when folks find out who my docs are, I’ve been told I have the best team possible, that my docs are top-notch in their respective fields. My odds of survival are high. Seriously, why me?
* My faith, while strong before, is growing. To give up on the idea that this is my life, that this is my home, is powerful, liberating and sorrowful all at the same time. I don’t want to go, so I’ll fight like hell to stay for a bit longer.
* I’m unbreakable one moment and a puddle the next and it’s okay.
* I am still living my life. I’m not waiting until this is over, until I get through this year, to start again or continue. Nope. Now. That’s all we have, mah babies.
I’m still not happy this is the road we find ourselves taking, but I have two choices: Grab life by the balls and LIVE, or don’t.