Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient

As you’ve probably assumed from the title of my blog, I am a cancer patient.  I first found the lumps when I was 33.  I was diagnosed exactly a month after my 34th birthday.

It sounds so simple when I say it like this.  But this experience has been anything but simple.

I know there people out there who have faced cancer and who have claimed that they were grateful for the disease.  I’ve even heard it referred to as “a blessing” by a select few.

I will tell you right now that I will never be one of those people.  Ever.  From my first real encounter with the disease (as a child watching her grandmother suffer and waste away from brain cancer), I knew that I hated cancer and that I could never see it as a blessing.

That being said, I cannot say that facing my own cancer and dealing with the aftermath of my diagnosis has been all bad.  Yes, the disease itself and the treatments, side effects, surgeries, fear, complications, etc. have been pretty awful.   I could downplay how rotten these things have been, and I certainly have done this plenty in my “real life” to make it seem like I’m fine and like it hasn’t been as bad as it has at times.  But I won’t do that here.  I don’t think trivializing these elements of my experience will do anyone any good, so I will do my best to be honest with you.

What I mean by “not all bad” is that I know there are amazing people I have met or gotten to know better and experiences I have had that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t heard those horrible words two years ago.  And that my children are better AND worse off because of my diagnosis.  Better because they have been embraced by people who love them and who will be there for them if I happen to not be here one day.  And worse because, well, having a mother with cancer is really crappy for a kid on so many levels.  And because they might have to bury me when they are still children — and there’s just no way to put a positive spin on that one.

One day I will tell you about some of the incredible people who’ve touched my life along the way.  About the amazing people who have rallied around me (and my boys) when we’ve needed support.  About the friendships that have been strengthened by cancer, and the relationships that didn’t survive.  About my sons’ best preschool friend and his parents, who went above and beyond for us.  About my children’s kindergarten teachers and a classroom full of parents who showed up on my doorstep with dinner for my kids or who took them to Chuck E. Cheese when I was too sick from chemo to do it myself.  About a school and a school district that came together to make sure my “little” ones had presents under the Christmas tree and that we never ran out of toilet paper when I was struggling to manage these things on my own.  And about nurses who’ve been my caretakers and my friends.  And people who made me feel like I’m not alone despite what could easily be an extremely isolating and lonely experience.

I will also tell you about tragic losses.  And despair.  And fear.  And sleepless nights.  And hot flashes.  And night sweats.  And dreams shattered.  And about how this disease has changed me.  About doctors who have been wonderful.  And doctors who have failed me.  I will tell you about my treatments.  About serious infections.  About what it’s like to be a young woman who takes pills that suck the hormones out of her body.  About what it is like to lose almost all of the parts that make you female by the age of 35.  And what this does to your body and your self-esteem.    About where the cancer was.  About how I found it.  And why it took months for me to have that crucial mammogram.

And one day I will tell you about my life “before” cancer.  About the people who helped to shape me.  About my family and my oldest, dearest friends.  About the things that made me “me” before this disease.  About the things that still make me “me.”

And so much more…

This is my story, for better or worse.  I plan to make it an honest account of what it is like to be given a life-threatening diagnosis at an age when your own death shouldn’t feel so imminent.

At the time of this first writing, I feel that I have so much left to share with my children and so much more to teach them.  So, more than anything, what you are reading is meant to provide a written record of my life for my children and a way for me to help them know and remember me and our story if, one day, I am not here to share in their lives.  But a part of me hopes it will be more than that and that maybe it will bring someone who is going through something similar a sense of comfort or a bit of virtual support.  Or that maybe it will serve as a cautionary tale and that someone, somewhere might pick up the phone and schedule that appointment they’ve been putting off.

For whatever reason you are here, I am grateful that you are.  Thanks so much for reading…

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9 thoughts on “Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient

  1. This should happen to know one but I know reality says it does. I’m new to your blog and going to try an catch up on your story. For what it’s worth I’m sorry this is happening to you, and I hope that you can beat it.

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  2. Pingback: Today is My 1st Birthday…My Blog’s 1st Birthday, That is! | cancerinmythirties

  3. I’m a fellow fighter. I shared your Pinktober views with many on Facebook. It was very well written. I know it’s helped many of my friends and family gain some insight and understanding to what all the pinkwashing feels like to those of us with breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. Thank you for writing it.

    I found my lump when I was 32 – and was diagnosed at 33 – a week after my 33rd birthday. We have those things closely connected. I did not have children when I was first diagnosed – and was deathly afraid of losing the chance to have children. I almost declined chemo and radiation – but as my oncologist said – if you don’t have chemo and radiation – you might not be around to have children. They shut my ovaries down in order to try to preserve them during chemo. I had my first child when I was 36 and my second when I was 37 1/2. BIG SMILE! My boys are now almost 8 and just turned 6! :O) I love being a mom! Such a blessing. I’m thinking of doing what you are doing – with the same desires – to let my boys have something to reference back to and get to know me if indeed I’m not there with them further down this road of life.

    My original cancer came in 2003 and late in 2011 – it metastasized to a number of different locations – lymph nodes in my neck, chest wall, lungs, lower back bone and some in my spine. For the first two years – things were very stable – just recently the lungs were affected – I had to have fluids drained – that was NOT fun. I’ve been switched to a drug called Letrozole. It appears to be working and things are going back to stable again. In four weeks we will see if my scan still shows me being stable, and I’ll start a trial. I’m excited about that! :O)

    I live in the Bay Area – near San Francisco. There is a wonderful group here called BAYS – Bay Area Young Survivors. We just started weeks after my diagnosis. What an amazing support this group has been for me and so many other young women with breast cancer. My first support group was with a lovely group of women in their 60’s and 70’s. I went home that night and cried and cried and cried. I could not relate to their fears as mine were so very different. I felt very alone. Then the BAYS groups was JUST beginning – and I was one of the first few members – and we grew, of course, like crazy because there are so many young women affected by this disease.

    Alright – I’ve said much more than what I intended. Thank you for sharing your story. I have a lot to read still about you – but I wanted to send you a note. You have inspired me to get started on my own story!

    Peace to you!

    ~Shell

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    • Dear Shell,
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing my post! And thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through and are going through.

      I’m so glad cancer didn’t rob you of having your little ones, but sorry that you have to deal with things like getting your lungs drained and having treatment when you should just be enjoying your little boys. Your story is such a powerful one and I really hope you are able to write it for your children (and anyone else you’d like to share it with).

      I think it’s wonderful that you shared the story about The Bays, though I’m sure that seeing the numbers grow was a bit of a double-edged sword. I am always struck by how there are so many remarkable women who have faced this disease and/or who are living with it. So many stories. So many women.

      Thank you so much for giving me a glimpse into yours and for taking the time to comment and share my post. I know we are just little voices, but I’m hoping that people are hearing the message and that at some point, change will come — because no one should have to deal with this disease at our ages or any age…

      I will be thinking of you as you await your next scan and hoping there is no progression and that you are able to start the trial. Please let me know how you are doing…
      And I truly hope you get to write about your story. And if you’d ever like to do a guest post on my blog, please let me know.
      Warmest wishes,
      Leisha

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  4. Thank you for this blog. I am 36 and am going for “that” mammogram tomorrow morning. I went in to see my Dr because of this tender spot near my under arm and walked out with three lumps that he found. I’m so rough and tumble I hardly ever noticed anything unusual but this weird feeling just didn’t go away.. So here we are. I have no idea what’s coming it could be nothing or something but either way your strength is noticeable – and I wanted to thank you for being real and young and alive. I followed your blog, I hope to read a bit more later tonight. Best to you and a big hug.

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