Three years ago, I dreaded this date, October 21st. It was the official start of my breast cancer treatment, a forever physically, mentally and emotionally changing experience. It was the day I had a double mastectomy and my breast surgeon removed the deadly cancer that was growing inside my body.
Now, three years later, I celebrate this day. I am a 3-year breast cancer survivor….today….3 years since I became cancer-free. Even though it was only 3 years ago, it feels like it was a long 3 years ago. Things that I knew like the back of my hand, like the various chemo drugs, the breast cancer lingo, the reconstruction process….today sometimes I struggle to remember things from that time. I guess it’s my way of forgetting that time in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole experience was easier than I thought it was going to be. Once I started my treatment path, I just kept chugging along until it was done. I didn’t look back, I didn’t mourn, I didn’t regret….I just did what I needed to do.
Now that it’s behind me, I get a chance to look back and reflect. And when I reflect, there are definitely moments I remember much more than others. Moments that sometimes take me back emotionally to what I went through. Moments like October 21, 2008. I hugged my mom and dad before leaving for the hospital and my voice broke as I said, “I’m scared.”
Moments like the first time my parents came over after my diagnosis. My mom’s first words to me were, “I wish it were me instead.” Such a hard thing for a daughter to hear, but I get it. I get it because I’m a mom now too. And I would go through it again ten times over if it guaranteed my own children’s health for the rest of their lives.
Moments like the doctor’s appointment when my oncologist told me she recommended I go through chemotherapy. This was only days after I got news that I may not have to go through chemo. But this doctor’s appointment I sobbed. I’ve never sobbed in public before. I didn’t even look at the oncologist. I kept looking at my husband, begging, pleading, “I don’t want to go through chemo. I don’t want to lose my hair.”
January 1, 2009 – The day I lost all my hair. Everyone said hair will grow back. But they didn’t have to lose it first. Forget the fact that I lost my breasts, forget the fact that I had chemo drugs pumping through my veins that made me tired and weak. I did not like being bald. Losing my hair made me look sick. I didn’t mind feeling sick, but I didn’t want to look sick. Pictures of me without anything on my head were forbidden during this time. But there is one, and only one. No one else remembers it, but you bet I do. And I can show it now because it’s over.
Moments like February 17, 2009 – the day of my last chemo treatment. The day I felt rejoice and fear all at the same time. Chemotherapy was a safety net, so what happens when that safety net is gone? What if the cancer comes back?
Even today, three years later, I have my moments. I throw myself pity parties every once in a while. I know it’s silly, I’m a survivor, there should be no pity. But every once in a while, in the privacy of my own bathroom, I cry silently in anger over what I had to go through and what I am left with. I didn’t mourn the loss of part of my womanhood 3 years ago, but today sometimes I do. I am left with scars that remind me every day. Those same scars on any given day may cause me anger and self-pity, and on another day give me strength and gratitude for having survived.
But good things did come out of this. And the greatest thing that could happen is that I could help someone else. Someone can learn from what I went through. Someone will take the time to be an advocate for their own health. This blog was started so we could do just that. Every time someone tells me they made a healthy change because of something they read on Everyday Road to Healthy, I have a happy moment. I like those moments.