Survivor since May 30, 2007
That was the day my life changed forever. I had my yearly mammogram that morning, left the hospital intent on going about the rest of my day, and I did, until the phone call that afternoon.
No one ever thinks they or anyone they know is going to get cancer. You do what the doctors tell you, exercise, eat right, self examine each month, yearly mammogram. That way, you are safe, right? Didn’t work that way for me.
You could have blown me over with a feather, me get cancer? How was I to tell my husband, who had stuck by me through the past 12 years of severe heart disease? Now this? Yeah, I felt sorry for him and me, scared and oh so sorry. My husband and I just held on to each other for dear life, the suppressing darkness of cancer cloaked around us. Was I going to live? See my granddaughter graduate, and get married? What of our plans to go to Alaska, and build our dream home? Had I done all I wanted to do, or was I out of time? People didn’t survive cancer very often, did they?
The next couple weeks were full of tests, more tests, and then a few more tests. Then came the day we sat in the surgeon’s office to hear our fate. I had a very aggressive type of cancer they said, but the good news (there is good news?) was that it was a hormone receptive positive cancer and I was only in stage 2. The tumor was lodged right on the breast bone, and since I had large, dense breasts, it had gone undetected for years. A modified radical mastectomy was recommended, and since I had a 40+% chance of it recurring in the right breast sometime down the road, what did I think of having it taken as well? What did I think? My husband and I both felt it was best to be aggressive, and not live every day wondering when the other shoe would drop. So I had both breasts removed along with 14 lymph nodes, as the sentinel node was cancerous.
Sometime after my surgery, when my dear husband was tending to my drains, I got mad. Good and mad. I decided than and there that I was NOT going to let cancer define me, I was NOT going to roll over and give up. We had too much to live for, too much to do. Alaska may be out this year, but by golly we were going to go in a couple years, right after we finished building our dream home. I got mad, and I stayed mad. As soon as I could heal, I was going to pick up my life and get going again. I would survive this, we both would. Yep, it would take some effort and some time, but I was going to kick this and WIN!!
That was 14 months ago. It wasn’t an easy few months after the surgery, I remember the long nights sitting up in the living room, too afraid to go to sleep, afraid I wouldn’t wake up. I kept telling myself that I could do this, I had a lot to live for, I was going to survive. But those night terrors can really get to you. Even today, you get a cough or a twinge or an ache or pain, and your first thought is cancer. I self examine every day now, always checking my scars for new bumps. But honestly, most of the time, life has never been better. I wake up each morning and thank God for another great day. I roll over and see my beloved husband’s face and love and gratitude flood through me. Flowers smell sweeter, friends are dearer, food tastes so good, I am closer to my God, I am healthy and confident and ready to take on even more world. I am volunteering several hours a week, we square dance, socialize with our friends, and are just about done building our dream home. I just had to get mad, and decide that I was not going to be defined by my cancer, I was going to kick it to the curb, and I was going to continue living my wonderful life. Joining and becoming active in my breast cancer support group, the Bosom Buddies, has been one of the smartest things I have done. Hearing others stories of cancer and struggle and survival has kept me on an even keel, helped me stay positive. If those other men and women can survive their cancers, how can I not succeed? Life has never been better, and I have decided that I was fortunate to have gotten cancer, as I am loving life even more than before, I don’t take anything for granted, I am not sweating any of that small stuff anymore, it is a waste of time. I smile all the time, I am alive, I am well, life is good. Cancer does not always mean death. Not any more!!