The Reality Of Me…

A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling a whirlwind of emotions, from confusion to fear. You might wonder what your treatment options are, whether your cancer will be cured and how your life will be affected by the disease in the long run.

Breast cancer doesn’t have to stop you from living a happy, fulfilling life – but it alters the reality you’re living in, and it might take a little while to learn to cope with the changes. After your diagnosis, and depending on your stage of cancer, you’ll begin undergoing different treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy. You might also have to go through surgery to get the cancer cells removed directly. One of the unfortunate results from breast surgery is that you could potentially lose one or both of your breasts.

After your treatments and surgeries, you might begin to experience a range of side effects. The most common aftereffects include pain, fatigue, firmness or shrinkage (due to radiation) of the breast, nausea and hair loss. Lymphedema is an adverse side effect you may experience if you receive radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in your underarm, which can cause your underarms to swell.

Maintenance drugs, called hormone blockers or inhibitors, also come with a wide range of side effects. They include: rashes, joint and bone pain, weight gain or weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and changes to your vision.

Though the treatments and side effects can prevent patients from taking part in everyday activities, it is also quite common for patients to go about their daily lives while receiving treatments for their breast cancer.

Those, who have never had cancer, most likely think that on the day treatment is finished, the breast cancer survivor can jump up and down for joy. It’s easy to think that when the treatment’s over, cancer’s over and – voilà! – life returns to normal. Reality, as is often the case, can be quite different.

My days are filled with some kind of pain. I have some days that the pain flickers in and out, some not so good days and a few really bad days. I have to remind myself to move or my joints will ache. There are days that just flat out hurt more painful than others. It amazes me how removing your boobs, getting implants and taking a little pill every day can change how you feel on a daily basis. Most days I’m am brave and forge ahead and others…well, crappy cancer kicks my butt on those days.

Rest is prescribed. It is the best fix it for most all side affects. Whatever! Easier said than done. You just can’t drop everything and go take a nap, or lay down for an hour. Stupid cancer has not only invaded my body but also every aspect of my life. My life is irrevocably changed for ever, because it will always be nagging at me in the back part of my brain…like the little devil that sits on my shoulder taunting me. Dumb cancer has forced me to face my mortality. It makes life more uncertain than ever before. This disease lays back…it sits and waits…and leaves you vulnerable. You feel like you’re not in charge. And I know you hate feeling vulnerable as much as I do.

I’ve been stoic and upbeat for the most part, I think. I know a positive attitude is important for my health. If you are newly diagnosed with breast cancer, listen carefully! Be real. Be honest. And never blame yourself (there isn’t any reason to look for an answer…it will drive you crazy) for this disease.

Yes, it’s important to have a positive attitude but don’t force what you don’t feel. People will make you feel like you have to put on a smiling face. It’s not about them. Don’t feel pressured to be strong for everybody else.

I’ve survived a bilateral mastectomy…worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I survived tissue expanders…felt like I had rocks on my chest and they are not only uncomfortable, but also painful after fills. Implants were the easiest part of this ordeal.

I have dealing with a multitude of side effects from Tamoxifen. And I have spent a few days just laying in bed crying. It’s normal!

I get all kinds of advice from people who have never walked in cancer’s shoes. “Be patient” they say. “It’ll get better.” “Don’t rush it” is another popular answer. “This will all be a distant memory.”…my ass! I know they mean well and love me. At least they are saying something that is suppose to be encouraging!!!! I have friends who don’t know what to say so they say nothing and are noticeably absent.

Cancer isn’t contagious but it seems people are so scared of this dreaded disease that they stay away. I actually had a woman take a step back when she heard I had breast cancer. I asked if she thought it was contagious. She looked at me, scared that I would touch her. And I did…to which she turned and left.

Most people are busy living their lives and don’t want to be reminded that cancer exists. And I get that! But I don’t have the privilege of being able to ignore the fact that cancer exists.

I fight cancer by trying to eat healthier. Exercising on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with my Camp Gladiator family. Plus I walk about 4 miles everyday the weather permits. I refuse to be a victim.

I’m different…different than I use to be. Not just physically, but my mind set has changed. I’m no longer the same person I was prior to my diagnosis. I will one day be pain free…hopefully. And discover a “new” me.

Journaling has given me an outlet to be honest with myself and meet this crappy cancer head on. I realize that it’s not for everybody. We all face our demons differently. If I’ve helped just one woman with my honesty, then baring my soul would’ve been worth it. I’m looking forward to getting past this pain to reclaiming my life.

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