It’s been over a month since I’ve posted about breast cancer, but the time has gone by in a flash. I finished treatment the day before Thanksgiving and was plunged immediately into the madness of the holiday season. I was tired and just worn out, but I kept my head up and put my smile on. I’m sorry to say that the 2014 holiday season was a total blur. I was just too exhausted.
It has been 206 days since I went in for some diagnostics and was treated to a surprise biopsy. It has been 201 days since I got the “It’s Cancer” phone call that changed my life forever. Breast cancer took half of my 2014, so I guess my reluctance to post more about cancer here lies in my unwillingness to give any more of my time to this disease.
People who know my story ask me about my health when they see me. It’s the first question. But, as an old friend said to me once when I asked him about his recent health issue, “I don’t want to be the guy who always leads with that. Can we talk about something else first?”
So, I don’t write this post as update to how I am doing (although I’m getting better every day, for the record). I write this post for the newly diagnosed women who can’t imagine what life looks like on the other side. Wherever you are – newly-diagnosed, pre-op, post-op, in treatment – just know that you are going to be fine. It doesn’t feel like it to you right now, but you are going to be fine. When I was at my lowest point, the thing I missed the most was laughter. I was so wrapped up in statistics, clinical trial results, cancer research news, medical procedures and side effects, and learning about other women’s breast cancer stories that I lost my ability to just let go and laugh. Instead, I obsessed over every breast cancer death that I heard about – Was her story like mine? Will I die like she did? I wanted to know the intricate details of every medical procedure that I would endure. I memorized the stats about five-year survival rates for breast cancer.
I thought I would never truly laugh again. I thought that a deep from-the-belly, can’t stop crying, can’t catch my breath laugh was lost to me forever. But I was wrong. Cancer will change you in many ways. Cancer will scare the shit out of you. Cancer will take up more time in your life than it deserves. Cancer will make you feel the worst pain you’ve ever felt. Cancer will test every relationship you have. But cancer will not take away who you are.
I write this post for the women who are arriving after me to this pit stop of life called breast cancer. Know your body, know your facts, keep your head clear and your eyes open, own your fear and don’t let it own you, hang on to the people who will help you make it through and don’t let go. You will make it to the other side and you will be fine.
It has been exactly 60 days since my final radiation treatment. In that time, I had an adventure to Washington, DC; I flew to Houston to meet astronauts, and I’ve had quite a few from-the-belly, can’t stop crying, can’t catch my breath laughing fits.
Life returns. The fear subsides. You will make it to the other side and you will be fine.
Read my continuing posts about breast cancer.