No one plans on getting a chronic illness. When you are faced with “the news,” you have a choice. As singer/songwriter Holly Near asks, “Do you pick fascination or fear?”
I certainly had a lot of anxiety and fear. However, I found that getting curious and understanding more about my illnesses helped me. In reflection, I now realize how much I have forgotton and how much I have chosen fascination.
As I’m writing this book, I notice that an orchid, was given to me when I was diagnosed and it is finally re-blooming, a year and 10 months later. Hopefully, no matter what changes we go through with cancer, we will bloom on the other side too.
I was celebrating being stable mentally after experiencing a manic episode in the fall of 2002 and finding out I had Bipolar Type 1 disorder. My husband, Ethan, and I were talking more seriously about starting a family. Then we found a lump on my left breast. I was told to watch it, assured that I was young with no family history. I was happy to ignore it. Later that summer a lump under my left armpit got my attention and within four days both lumps were removed and it was confirmed that I had all receptor negative breast cancer.
In shock, because I felt really healthy. In shock because that is how I deal with trauma. I had a lumpectomy and axial node dissection which showed that five of 21 lymph nodes removed were infected with cancer. I was diagnosed stage 2a, faced four months of Faxotere and A/C, had another re-excision in January, and had radiation in February and March for six weeks. Those are the medical details. To follow is my personal journey.
Off with the Hair:
I didn’t want to wait for my hair to fall out. I donated my 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that makes wigs for kids and adults with hair loss. My friends Esther and Josh had just bought a pair of shears to use on Josh’s head. Esther “practiced” on me first, since I wanted it all off.
I learned the true meaning of Take Care:
With my hair off and wig and hats waiting and ready, I felt prepared for chemotherapy. I was very scared heading into the first round of chemo. I attended a breast cancer support group and it helped to hear other women’s stories. I met with a doctor that specialized in holistic cancer treatment and recommended a slew of supplements; I found an acupuncturist; I signed up my girl friends to drive me to my chemo appointments; I scheduled massages every 2 weeks.
Taking care of yourself comes in many forms and often can seem overwhelming. I so appreciated Ethan’s ability to let me be however I was feeling at the time and take care of himself too.
To be continued…
Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.