My Cancer Journey
I was 19 years old when my Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was there for her, through it all; her surgery, her chemo and radiation, her ups and downs. We were silly with each other, we cried a few times, but most of the time my Mother was a rock, strong as ever, as if her experience, her journey was nothing, no big deal.
At least that is how she portrayed it to the world. I NOW see her journey in a very different light. I am finally understanding some of her comments, her actions, which at the time I thought it was just her being strong, her just being her. But it was not. She became more closed in, she became tougher as a being, and kept even more to herself. She did not let her true feelings out. She was also dealing with Chemo brain, and we all thought, she simply kept on forgetting what she had already told us!
I always wondered since then, if I would also end up with breast cancer, considering my Mother's came back almost 20 years later, and my Aunt also ended up being diagnosed with it as well. About 6 years ago I decided to do the gene testing (BRAC testing) and it all came back negative. That was a true relief and certainly became much less worried for myself and my daughters.
Early May 2014 though, I felt a lump and decided to right away have it checked. I was nervous, I had a bad feeling... And sure enough, my worst nightmare became a reality. I will never EVER forget the call from the radiologist who did my biopsy. I thanked him, felt numb for a while, told myself I will beat this and that day I just had questions. Why? Why me? What about the BRAC being negative? What about my daughters? What will be the action plan? Why now, that we moved to a place we still barely know anyone? Why do we live so far from our family?
As it started sinking in, I started getting more nervous. One week later I had my first appointment with the surgeon as well as with the oncologist. Though I knew much of the lingo from having gone through it with my Mother, a lot was also so unknown. Especially as I learned my cancer was Triple Negative. Triple what? That is good then, right? WRONG... it is the most aggressive type of breast cancer. Unlike hormone positive breast cancer, there is still not specific treatment for it, there is no pill to take after all treatments do their thing.
I came back home and started to learn as much as possible about it. It started to scare me more and more and that is when the tears got the best of me. I cried and cried and was mad, furious, upset at the world, upset at no longer having my Mother or Aunt around to ask them questions, have their support.
Once my medical team and I decided on a plan of action, I started feeling stronger again. I knew I could not go into this just with Western medicine though, so I was also followed by an amazing lady, Hima Dalal at Vital Energy in Columbia, SC, who helped me through physical therapy as well as Reiki, crystals and Ayurveda. You can read about Hima's help through my journey here.
Also, I right away joined a local support group, YSC which was and still is a tremendous asset for me. I would have never thought that belonging to a support group was my cup of tea, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to meet, talk, laugh and cry with survivors that know exactly first hand what one is going through.
My plan of action was to start with a bi-lateral mastectomy. I wanted the cancer out of my body, and fast. Also I wanted to lower the chances of recurrence (though I realize with TNBC it can easily spread just about anywhere else in the body with no explanation).
After the mastectomy, I found out I was stage 2A. Due to the fact that during the surgery my margins were clear and no node involvement, my medical team did not see it worth doing radiation, as there was nothing to radiate. Chemo was done mostly as a preventive solution, in case a strand had somehow escaped. The protocol I followed was 4 rounds of AC every two weeks and 12 rounds of Taxol once a week.
Though I did choose chemo, I also informed my oncologist that I would do all I could to help my body heal through food. I juiced daily, became much more plant-based, avoided sugar, meditated, exercised.
There are so many things we all take for granted and, unless you go through a journey as such, do you really understand the meaning of LIFE, and slowly become a NEW you. We will NEVER be the same, physically and emotionally. Never ever. We simply become a new us, which takes time to figure out. I now wished I had someone I am becoming, a health coach to help me find that new me, to keep me accountable, to be there for me and especially to understand all I was going through.