No one ever wants to hear that they have cancer – especially a week before Christmas. But that is exactly what happened to me. No time is a good time to get a cancer diagnosis, but over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays it is even worse, since doctors and surgeons like to take their well-deserved time off. Most people that have cancer lurking in their body want to rid themselves immediately. However, I needed to learn to be patient. And lucky for me, my family and friends helped keep my mind off of what was ahead of me. I did however, use the time to research. I am curious by nature and wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about what was in front of me.
I scoured the internet for hours every day careful not to hit the websites with misinformation or the stories from people that were having a difficult time. I made the conscious decision early on, to fight with every fiber of my body and keep a positive attitude throughout (and to keep life as normal as possible). The word “Hope” was not in my vocabulary – I hoped I beat it just didn’t sit right with me. Conquer became my mantra. I needed and wanted to learn as much as I could about the type of cancer I had and how best to beat it. What were my options, what was I facing and what was the prognosis? I went to my appointments informed and had so many questions – I was my own advocate – I took ownership. While my tumor was small it was nasty and aggressive. I had two surgeries before I started chemo. I did a clinical trial for radiation and ended up having a mastectomy two years later because of problems created by my original surgeries and radiation. I had an awesome care team, who were there for me every step of the way. And through it all, I kept my sense of humor which helped me get through some rough days. I continued to work throughout my treatment and I took advantage of every resource that was available to me. Again, my family, friends and care team helped me get face the adversity – I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.
There are days I still have “chemo brain”, but those are getting fewer and fewer. I have had to adjust to my “new normal” as they say, but I am thriving. I feel better than I have in a very long time and if cancer does one thing to you, it makes you step back and assess your life. What is important and what can just go away. Keeping positive energy and doing away with the negative is key. Find humor and don’t take yourself or others too seriously. Life is too short to hold onto things that make you unhappy. Make a conscious effort to compliment people – it is amazing how that can change someone’s day. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a network of very good friends and a loving family on this journey and have learned to take nothing for granted. Live long and “thrive