I became inspired to write this since many people have asked me questions about my experience with breast cancer. I thought it would be a good idea to openly share what it has been like for me. I must admit, in the beginning I was a little naïve about the path set before me. I underestimated what this journey would cost. Let me be transparent in saying that the past 2 months have been some of the greatest but most challenging months of my life. I’ll speak on both later. Clearly finding out that I might have cancer did not make me feel like I won the lotto or some golden pot of rainbows. As one could imagine, I felt the complete opposite. It’s almost like I felt betrayed by my own body. Once everything was confirmed I then had 101 questions racing through my mind. For example, “Why me? Has it spread somewhere else in my body? What stage am I? What does that even mean? How will this affect my husband? How will I tell my kids? What about my family? What will other people think? Can I still have a normal life? How sick am I going to get? Will my hair fall out?” these are just to name a few. There’s nothing more surreal than having to look mortality in the face. It’s jarring because you don’t see life the same and never will.
I’m the kind of girl that always tries to see the cup half full, but even for me, this was a huge pill to swallow. My emotions ranged from shock to devastation. I am now approaching my third chemo treatment. Even now, there are still times that I can’t believe that I have cancer! The side effects from chemo alone are enough to drive someone crazy. I have experienced nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, migraines, tingling in my hands and scalp, hair loss, dry mouth, light sensitivity, and fatigue. I have to take countless medications to try to stop the side effects, but each medication comes with its own list of side effects as well lol. While all this is taking place in the background I still had to worry about work, medical leave, figuring out insurance, and managing a household with kids. I’m doing this while trying to recover from my last treatment so that I can become strong enough to face this beast called chemo again.
Now, let’s look at the bright side. What gets me through is confirmation that my chemo is actually working! The oncologist has confirmed that my lump has decreased in size! I have also been able to connect with so many new people and organizations. God has allowed me to cross paths with people that I know will now be in my life forever. I’ve also learned just how loved my family and I are. We have received so many messages, prayers, cards, stylish breast cancer socks, breast cancer jewelry, inspiration boxes, chemo snacks, food, household items, gifts for the kids, and gift cards. The list could go on. My co- workers even set up a weekly “meals on wheels” for our family. Seeing the way the others have extended themselves to bless us has honestly humbled me. It makes myself and my family very appreciative to see how cherished we are.
My husband created an online care calendar that he named, “The Healed Family” (clever right?). With this app our close loved ones can go on line and help us with certain things that we have a need for. A few examples would be taking me to a doctor’s appointment or picking up the kids from daycare. Let me just pause right here and say that a care calendar is a brilliant idea. I’m realizing that a lot of people want to help us, but may not know how. So I’ve found it best to just be vocal about what my family’s needs are. Now our loved ones do not have to question what we need or wonder what a priority is for us.
Speaking of my husband earlier, I have learned what TRUE unconditional love looks like in its purest form. From sitting on the floor letting me cry on his lap, to numerous appointments, to reminding me to take my various medications, to taking care of the kids, to running last minute errands, to shaving my hair after it started falling out in clumps…. I mean the amount of stress and sacrifice is insane. It makes me conscious that cancer does not just affect me, but my entire family. If you have a spouse or caretakers remember that this is hard for them too. They need an outlet from time to time. I don’t even know how I would handle things if the shoe were on the other foot. He does it so effortlessly and never lets me think the worse. He has been beyond supportive, prayerful, and positive since the very first day I even noticed there was a lump. I am forever grateful to him. In spite of this mountain before us our marriage is actually stronger than it’s ever been!
Spiritually I have learned to focus on God and to trust him with my entire life…. Literally! On my weak days he is my strength, when I am sick from side effects He allows my body to heal, and somehow even through the midst of turmoil and chaos I can still feel the warm embrace of his peace, love, and hope! Through this ordeal God has shown me what is really important in life. I am interested to see how our relationship will continue to grow and where this faith walk will take me.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. I can remember when my mom would make us read and recite this scripture from an early age. Seeing how much I rely on it now makes things come back full circle. It reminds me that hope combined with faith makes you unstoppable.
I’m realizing more and more that life with cancer is a daily journey. Feelings change, my body is changing, my life has changed, let’s just say EVERYTHING has changed lol! Yes, there are some days that knock me down and I feel like cancer won the battle, but I know it won’t win the war! Falling down will always be a part of life, but getting back up is how you win! Every time I make it through a long day or a dark night I feel like I’ve earned another diamond to add to the tiara that represents my journey. Somehow I muster the strength to get back up again, put my tiara back on, and continue to walk in faith while protecting my hope!
Until next time….. Ciao Bella!