The year was 2010, and I had no idea that my life would change, once again. In February of that year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found the lump. The radiologist and my surgeon confirmed what every woman never wants to hear, “You have breast cancer”.
I proceeded to follow the recommended course of treatment. I had two surgeries, followed by six weeks of radiation. The following fall there was suspicious activity on my mammogram and so I revisited the hospital for more tests before confirming everything was OK. I was followed closely with mammograms and MRI’s for one year. After the first year, I graduated to annual appointments and mammograms.
I was on a non-steroidal aromatase inhibitor, Arimidex, for five years to suppress most estrogen and progesterone production in my body. At year five I celebrated not having to take that little pill. Another graduation moment.
The annual visits continued. I have been followed closely, by my medical team ever since.
Late last year I visited my surgeon for the last time. And today, I graduated from the oncology department. I had my last visit with my oncologist, Dr. Raja, this morning. It was a bittersweet moment as I have grown quite fond of her and the nurses and the receptionists who have been so kind and supportive to me. I will miss them.
I also continued with alternative therapies so I could continue to heal and thrive. Along with my western Doctors, I incorporated monthly massages into my routine, along with acupuncture, chiropractics, counseling, and more. I have a background in Holistic Health Education and recognize the importance of incorporating all health modalities into any healing scenario.
Today I graduated. What does that mean for me? It means I will need to step up a little more and not rely on my annual visits. I will be responsible for my own breast exams. I will be responsible for having body awareness and recognize when things are not quite right. I will be responsible for scheduling my mammogram, annually. I will be responsible to schedule an annual visit with my primary physician. (I just found out yesterday that she has taken Scottish Dance lessons) I will be responsible for my health care. I have always been responsible for this, now I need to advocate for myself, knowing that I am the primary person responsible for all health care issues.
I will continue to be an advocate for my own health care. The words self-advocate sounds so easy but it is work to be an advocate for myself in this huge health care system. I believe in being an active member of my team. My team regarding breast cancer has now shifted to my primary physician and as always, myself.
Having gone through this experience, I have grown. I have made many new friends, who I treasure dearly. It is good to be with others who are having a similar experience. I learned to make hard and difficult choices. Life lessons are usually not very easy. And I have learned to look forward to each new day with a wee bit of joy.
I want to thank everyone, and you know who you are, who have supported and loved me and guided me along the way. Some of my friends have died from this dreadful disease. I love them still. They were often my guide through the whole process. Without Goldie, Zoe and so many more I would have felt more alone and lost in this process. We were all a part of a website that, although still on the web, is not active. When I was going through this process we would often meet nightly in the “chat room” and discuss hard and difficult things and then laugh and tell jokes and share recipes. Three of us even planned and executed a weekend visit in Washington DC.
Today I will take time to notice this life shift. I will do a little happy dance. I may even celebrate, safely during this pandemic time.
TODAY I GRADUATED!!