I keep thinking to myself, "Why now?" Why was I ready to go public with this battle now and not before and why am I doing it at all. The answers are many and not necessarily straight forward.
1) First Person: As the first person I knew diagnosed with breast cancer (and whoever I knew who had cancer were older and different types), I was a bit overwhelmed at first by this new "world" I was in - you never understand so much that doctors are human than when you are facing a life threatening illness. Breast cancer is considered curable (depending on stage) but until you get on the operating table, they do not know what stage you are for sure. There is a huge unknown and for the "old" me, this was something that made me crazy. I want to share what I now know about this experience for those who come after me. Unfortunately, people will come after me. I wish they would not but it is the nature of this beast. Something like 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer so of myself and my closest friends, it was me. Hopefully our group is "done" but there are other groups, other women and men who are at risk and do not even know it (like me).
2) The Worry and the Fear: I was always a worrier - it is what made me "me". I learned quickly in the world of cancer that worry gets you no where fast. Every time I tried to ask my surgeon, "Will I live, am I going to make it?", he would make a face at me and then finally after I asked 10 times he said, "I can get hit by a bus tomorrow - who knows." And I woke up after that and learned the hard way at 39 that there are no guarantees in life - ever. Somehow, this was also oddly comforting as for the first time I learned to "let go" and for me, it was, "Let go and let God." I understand not everyone is religious so you can just follow the first two words, "Let go." I want to help people try to let go of all they cannot control, which in reality in life even without cancer is most of everything but especially with cancer - there is no energy or time left to spend days worried that could be spent living.
3) Shame: I hated being the focus of pity and the daily struggle I had just to get through my day was something that I could not wrap my head around. I am used to being an energizer bunny and having all of that energy sucked out of me during my 16 weeks of chemotherapy was something I could not be "me" through. I tried, though, I tried damn hard but I was only at best a sliver of my former self and that hurt more than the one boob and the no hair. The fact that my intellect and my ability to do everything was gone was so painful for me and also for my children. I had people to step up and take over at home but for the bulk of my chemotherapy, my kids just wanted their mom back. Between fear of germs and exhaustion, I almost was no longer here. I want to help others NOT go through the shame - it is nothing to be ashamed of - I got sick; I did not ask for it (no one does) it just happened. I had to learn that some people will leave my life and/or not be true to supporting me and I had to learn to let go of that, too.
4. Those who helped me: No matter how many friends and family I had in my corner, cheering me on and helping me through the most helpful were those who had been through this disease, those who experienced it firsthand. Not to say that everyone else was worth "less" - it is a different scale. For me, having someone through Sloan who had gone through it and who texted me non stop even to the point of reminding me to drink my water before chemotherapy tricks-for-treatment.html and helped talk me off a ledge when I read something that triggered me. And she was not the only guide I had on this process; I have a few ladies who have been there and back and I love them each the same. Again, everyone who has been there for me is loved by me but there is something about having people who have been through it to make you feel less crazy.
I also made a video about why now that I am sharing here, as well. Keep fighting!
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