Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient

cancerinmythirties cancer breast thirties 30s

5 Days After Bilateral Mastectomy and Axillary Lymph Node Dissection

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…

20 Comments

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

  1. I have just been looking through your blog, after seeing your post for this week’s DPchallenge, and I have to say I am in tears. This shouldn’t be happening to you, I feel it is so very unfair.
    However, I also want to say, that I think you are wonderful. In writing and sharing this personal, heartbreaking experience, your courage just shines so brightly. I see you facing this trial head on, making informed decisions, and being so honest about your feelings.
    I so hope that miracle cure is found tomorrow, and you are the first to receive it. I hope you hold on to that positive, fighting spirit, and have great support and love around you if you waver.
    Your DPchallenge post was beautiful, and packed a punch, it needs to be Freshly Pressed.
    I will just warn you, don’t go to my blogs, I will not be offended at all. Herstory in Pieces is a dark depiction of depression, and Letters to Dom is a blog that has helped me in the grief I have experienced after losing a close friend whom I cared for as she died – you really don’t need these words in your life, you need to hold on to every positive ounce you can wring from every moment.
    From what I can see, you are an inspiring articulate woman, and it gladdens me to see a woman who can be so wonderful in the face of such adversity.
    I send you love, peace, strength and gallons of hope. Thankyou, Elyn ♡♥♡

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    • Hi Elyn,
      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments.
      When I started this blog, I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone in my ‘real’ life where to find it because I thought I would keep it ‘anonymous.’ I wanted to leave it as a memoir for my kids and I also thought that some day someone might find some comfort in it if they were going through similar experiences. I didn’t really expect that anyone else would bother to read it, let alone comment on it.

      I am glad I was so wrong. I had no idea that it would bring me so much comfort and that others’ thoughts about my experiences would come to mean so much. Some of the notes and comments I have received from strangers who only know me through my stories have been so supportive and kind. Your note ranks at the top of my list, Elyn. I am so deeply moved by your words and they were exactly what I needed to hear to pick myself up and keep plugging along.

      I will look forward to reading your blog one day [if it is as dark as you say, I will take your advice and wait a bit before reading it! 🙂 ]. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend…

      Thank you so much, Elyn. Your words are an amazing gift…
      With warmest wishes & gratitude…

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      • Thankyou so much for your reply, it’s hard to know what to write sometimes, words just aren’t enough. But I really was encouraged reading your blog, you have a great attitude in the face of something so enormously difficult. My heart breaks that you are writing this for your children, but what an extraordinarily precious gift, that I hope you will reveal to them on their 21st birthdays – they will see how brilliant their mum is.
        And thankyou for heeding my advice, you don’t need my story in your life right now – go to some lovely blogs, ones that inspire and post beautiful photos and artworks, immerse yourself in beauty, let your spirit rest a while.
        I haven’t followed you either, because your story is a little too close to that of my friend, but I will pop back and see how you are traveling.
        Love and peace to you my friend ♡

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          • Hi Elyn,
            I did have to peek…but I can see why you told me to stay away. From the little bit I read, I could see that you are a talented writer. And I could also see that you were a loving friend. It has been a couple of months now, but I still clearly remember the part about your friend deluding herself into thinking that she would be okay, that the cancer wouldn’t take her, even late in her journey. That part resonated with me so deeply that I realized that you were right to tell me to stay away. So I closed the door and quickly turned to run away.
            But I know that I will be back one day, when I am ready.
            In the meantime, know that my sympathies are with you. And that I think you are a gifted writer…
            Warmest wishes for 2013… ❤

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            • Thankyou so much for your kind comment.
              I’m glad you ‘closed the door’, my friend’s situation was quite unique, her doctors were exasperated, but it’s what she needed to do to survive.
              Yours is a totally different case. I have just been reading through your recent posts, and I guess I had your reaction of wanting to run away ~ but only because you are facing this journey head on, and your writing expresses your reality so well. So many people have no idea of how difficult the cancer journey is, you are so strong to write about it as you go through it. I hope it helps you, and I’m sure it will help others.
              Encircle yourself with positivity, read positive blogs, have positive people around you.
              I saw your recent photos, and I see life in your eyes, I see a wonderful woman who has good things ahead of her.
              I will keep you in my heart ♡

              Like

  2. I wish you the very best on this journey, and I know your family is making it with you. I am a breast cancer survivor, although my case seems so small next to yours – I needed only a lumpectomy, and my children were grown. You and yours are in my thoughts and prayers as you work your way through treatments and tests, I will be following you and paying for the best possible outcome. XOXO

    Like

    • Thanks so much, retiring sort… I’m sorry you have also faced this nasty disease. Thank you for your well wishes and prayers (and for reading!!)… I also wish you well on your journey & hope you are doing okay.
      All my best to you…

      Like

  3. Dear friend,
    Sending lots of love and a big smile! My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago and is undegoing a series of Chemotherapies now. Cancer is a big challenge, but i see a fighter! No need to say much really, i am just sending a big hug!

    Like

  4. Just thought you would like to know that more than 14 years after I had Stage IIB ER/PR-, HER2 positive breast cancer I am doing fine. Last year I discovered I was BRCA positive and had a boatload of surgery to reduce my risk. Hang in there and keep writing!

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  5. I admit that as I read this, I am always left wondering . . . did you “beat” or at least subdue that dragon with the big “C” on its chest? is a friend posting your memoirs? is it live or is it Memorex? does it matter? I think because we become personally connected to bloggers as we move through the blogosphere it is a sobering thought and I do hope I am not “talking” to the memory of a beautiful woman and loving mom who drew a short straw much too early on the path of life. ~ K

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  6. Wow. You liked my silly little boyfriend-gone-bad post so I got curious and clicked back on you and I’m in awe. Breast cancer has reared it’s ugly head on both sides of my family, so your posts are hitting home hard. Be well…I’m a new fan!

    Like

    • Aww, I am flattered! And I thought your post was great! I am sorry to hear that your family has been touched by cancer, too. I hope my posts aren’t too difficult to read. I keep things light for the most part — until those dark, twisty days get to me, of course.
      Thanks so much for clicking — and reading — and commenting. I am glad I did! It’s lovely to meet you!

      Like

  7. Many young men and women are being diagnosed with cancer. This is the result of a lengthy history of exposure to carcinogens for the American population. Exposures of the grandparents and the parents affect the cancer risk of the offspring.

    I have read and thought about a large number of scientific research articles on the subjects of carcinogen exposure and cancer risk. I have concluded that exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is a major contributor to cancer causation. POPs are man-made, toxic substances that are lipid soluble. Dioxins, PCBs and brominated flame retardants are POPs. These substances are contaminants of all animal fats. You are exposed to POPs when you eat foods that contain animal fats, including: meats, fish, diary products and eggs.

    I recommend that you eliminate consumption of animal fats so as to minimize your exposure to POPs. By ending ongoing exposure to these poisons, you give your body a better chance to heal itself. Research studies have demonstrated higher recovery rates for breast cancer patients who have a lower body burden of POPs.

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  8. You are a beautiful and strong woman. I do not know you personally but I praise you for the strength that you have to educate other women! You are in my prayers and I thank you for showing us and telling us the situations that women face every day. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the fast lane that we are not aware of the risk that women face. Thank you for sharing your story and I am so proud of you for your strength.

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  9. Thank you so much for writing your story and giving a voice contrary to the popular (and unfortunate) dialogue of cancer survivors in this country. I am also a 15 year survivor and am started to do activist work to give voice to “invisible” voices in our society, specifically focusing on illness in capitalism and working with cancer survivors. I am graduate student in anthropology at American university and am starting to make a series of digital stories to address this inequality, objectification, and exploitation of individuals with chronic illness by corporations profiting off our lives experience and suffering. Please feel free to email me, as in setting the foundation for this research now and was so inspired by what you wrote. Thank you again for telling the world your story and making others conscious of these issues. Best, Kelc

    Liked by 1 person

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