I don’t know or remember where I heard this in reference to being a “survivor” but the gist was that you don’t know you’ve survived cancer until you die from something else. A pretty morbid thought, isn’t it? And sad, too. Hearing this took away something I valued a lot-hope, and reinforced the Fear. Fear has become my shadow and is akin to someone you don’t particularly like, but have to put up with. Fear is there every minute of the day; greets me first thing in the morning and haunts my dreams. Fear whispers, “It might come back, you know”. Fear is something that every single person that has had any type of cancer knows intimately.
I wasn’t afraid in the beginning, which always seemed odd to me. I was determined to win the battle and “it” was not going to stand a chance. Looking back, I don’t know where I found the strength to go through what I did with such hope and well, attitude. None of it seemed to weaken me, or my resolve to survive. I do know now, there were many, many times that I faked this good, positive attitude for someone else’s sake. There were times of emotional confusion for me that I couldn’t even explain to myself. The only one that truly saw the heartbreak, the sadness and the grief for what I had lost was my significant other, Kevin. When my hair started to fall out, he cried for me. But, bald or not, I was his and he stood by me through it all.
I went through the chemotherapy easily, if you can say anything about chemo is ”easy”. I never got sick from it and felt fairly normal most of the time. Until I looked in the mirror of course. I remember wondering, “Is this stuff even working?” because I ,like all of us, heard the horror stories about chemotherapy. Well, it was working and in August 2008 I had a bilateral mastectomy.
I remember that day so well. I was taken down to the surgical holding area and left there alone for about two hours. My family had no idea where I was or what was going on. I am glad that I had that time. I remember I crossed my arms and held each breast in my hands. I felt their weight, their warmth and I said good-by. Memories of that first time my mom made me wear a bra were there…the first time they were touched …hugging my son to them…all there. I said good-by to my breasts.
Before the reconstruction, I would often “feel” them-the weight of them. It was a strange feeling, which I think was very similar to the phantom pain that amputees feel. Each time it happened, I felt sad for a few minutes, remembering what was. I still feel a sense of loss. My “new” ones are nice. Or, rather will be when all the surgeries are done. But, they aren’t the same. They are cute and perky and always will be unless insurance companies are willing to pay to have reconstructed breasts “aged”. I laugh a bit, thinking about being my grandmother’s age (95) and having nice firm tata’s.
Cancer took much away from me-friends, my self-esteem, and at times, it took my life because “it” dominated every minute of the day if I let it. I faltered at times, but I tried to be strong for myself. I believed. I believed in myself, in the power of love and mostly, I believed that I was strong enough to win. I still believe that.
So, I truly AM a survivor!