janjohnson2bw

Survivor since 1976…

Life is Beautiful – I’m one of the lucky ones

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 1976 at the age of 39.  Due to the vigilance of my wonderful doctor, the cancer was caught at a very early stage so my prognosis was good.  However, the fear associated with cancer gripped me in the days between my diagnosis and surgery.  One night I thought that the bed was shaking.  In fact, it was me trembling so hard that I was shaking the bed.

The most difficult part of the experience was telling my two teenage daughters and my eight-year-old son that “Mom has cancer”.   The memory of their fear still brings tears to my eyes and is difficult to talk about.  As I sat in the surgeon’s office while he was telling me what the mastectomy involved and what I would look like afterwards, I wanted to scream “I don’t care!”  All I wanted was some assurance that I would live to raise my children. If it meant sacrificing a bit of my anatomy it was OK by me.

Immediately after the initial recovery from surgery, I took great glory in all life, even to the point of insipidly reveling in watching grasshoppers jumping up on my legs as I walked in the fields near our home in Fort Collins.  After a few months, I must admit, I was back to enjoying watching my cat consume the grasshoppers, but the joy in living remained.

The blessing that cancer bestowed on all of us was that we were made painfully aware of the fact that life is short and unpredictable.  As a consequence, even through the typical trials and family arguments associated with raising teenagers, we never said things to each other that we would regret later.  To this day, I believe that we are closer as a family, in part because of the experience.

I have been cancer-free for 32 years.  I know that many women diagnosed with breast cancer travel a much more difficult path than I did.  I admire you.  I wish you a beautiful life and “hyacinths to feed thy soul”.

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