Friday, July 8, 2011

Three Years Since Breast Cancer Came Into My Life

Today is my three year cancerversary. It almost snuck up on me this year. Not much has happened since last year but this past year has been a year of healing for me both mentally and physically.

I can have days go by without dwelling on my diagnosis or treatment. I still spend time on the internet researching treatments /side effects/research findings, reading other breast cancer blogs, and visiting the message boards but it all doesn’t seem so personal any more. Almost like it happened to someone else, someone I am close to but not me. I’m not saying that something won’t trigger my memories and that I don’t end up back in the horror of that time but it definitely happens less often. I hardly ever dream about having cancer anymore and I’m hoping my friends and family find I talk about it less.

Horrible things happen to people every day. This day three years ago was one of those days for me. Hearing the pain in my doctor’s voice over the phone as he told me and then hearing the pain in my parents’ voices as I told them are memories that will always be seared in my brain. Time stood still as my mind tried to wrap itself around how much my life had changed in that one instance. I can’t erase those memories and I don’t think I want to any more. The whole cancer experience is now a part of me and a part of who I am.

I worry that sometimes I am a little too Pollyannaish but no matter how terrible and scary life can get, it has so far not even been close to how bad 07/08/08 was for me. And I survived that. I am still here plus I am happy and healthy. I am not saying that things are always great and that I always have a smile but when I start to get brought down by something happening around me, I can draw on the knowledge that I have the strength to get through just about anything. Plus there is the elephant in my brain that, while he has grown much smaller, he is still there making sure that I know I am not out of the woods yet. People often survive the first round of cancer but it can come roaring back in a second and next time I might not be so blessed/lucky. So, when time could be short for me, why the heck would I want to spend time worrying about something that happened at work or something breaking that can be fixed, or something that I am going to recover from. My life could be short, why spend it sweating the small stuff. And as long as I and my loved one’s are healthy, it is truly all small stuff. Life can go oh so wrong in just a second. One phone call can change your life forever. If there is one thing I have learned in the past three years, it is to live life like that phone call could happen any second. Today is a glorious day and so far the phone has not rung.

Physically, since my hysterectomy in January, I feel almost normal. I still have some constant aches from just above my lumpectomy scar and in my joints, I still have burn scars from radiation, and my hair is still very dark. Other than that I have no complaints or even any concerns right now. With all of the pain and subsequent testing to see if the cancer spread in the past three years, it has been wonderful to just live life and not have those constant scares. I think it has been three months since I have been to see a doctor! I still have two months left on my tamoxifen prescription so I might even make it five months. I used to go years with no contact with the medical community but for a while there I was going in daily which isn’t fun when it is over an hour drive to the cancer center. Not that I don’t love and appreciate all of my medical care providers, I just hope I don’t have to see them much in the future.

I’ve read that the side effects from chemo can linger for years. I think I am over the worst of them. My hands no longer get numb, my hair is long, my memory has come back, and I am starting to lose the weight I gained during treatment. I still have some circulation problems with my lower legs and feet but it is getting much easier to walk long distances. My mantra after treatment was that each day was better than the last and I truly believe that was true. The body’s ability to heal after being pumped full of poison is an amazing thing.

My last thought of the day – improvements in cancer treatment are made every day. I was very lucky to come into the fight at a time when some huge advancements had been made and I am feeling great today because I had some less invasive treatments than cancer patients had even five years ago. I am encouraged that I am reading about research findings that have been made even in the three years since my diagnosis. Please consider donating to a cancer research fund. Or even to my team for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk. I have to believe that there is a better way to fight cancer and that someday there will be a cure. I hope it is in my lifetime.

Here's my post from this day last year.  I didn't write one on the first anniversary of my diagnosis.  I think it was still too raw in my mind and I still just wanted the whole experience to go a way.