Friday, October 4, 2013
Breast Cancer Awareness.
This is my third go-round for breast cancer awareness month. Each year, it has a little different feeling. This year, I wish I wasn’t as aware as I am, but as always, I’ll take the opportunity to share what I have learned through this experience. First things first, breast cancer is an oddly random disease. It’s sneaky and seems to pop up out of the blue. Especially in the early stages, it doesn’t make you feel like you are sick. Which is why there is so much preaching of early detection. Mammograms are probably the best way to catch the disease before it gets out of control. Unfortunately for me, they don’t start doing those screenings until the age of 40. Do not assume breast cancer cannot happen to you. It can happen to anyone. This is not meant to be a scare tactic, but rather just an opportunity for you to be aware of your body and any changes. It’s also a reminder to speak to your doctor and be proactive. Do not wait and say “it’s nothing” if you find something. Take care of it. Time is so important in the world of cancer. That is the general message that goes out to the majority of people regarding breast cancer awareness. Then there is the awareness of what it is like on the other side of the mammogram. For me, this will be a life-long journey now. I will walk with cancer. I will be in some form of treatment likely for the rest of my life. I am learning to live with that and not live looking too far ahead. I used to say we will do this or that when I am cancer free. The reality is, that may or may not happen. I have no idea. What I do know is that it has changed me in many ways. Aside from the physical stuff, I have changed emotionally as well. I try very hard to not let cancer interfere with my life, but truth be told, of course it does. It’s cancer. I have my good days and my bad days. Sometimes treatment is no big deal. Other days, it consumes me almost entirely. It’s hard to predict when and how that will happen. I am learning the pattern of my latest treatment to help get this under control and manage my side effects. I’m sure in time I will get it under control. So, what is a day in the life of a chronic breast cancer patient like? Well, to be fair, every day is different. Some days, it is no different than the day in the life of someone without cancer. I have my daily routine and do the best I can to maintain normalcy where possible. Other days, I am ruled by nausea, fatigue, weird finger issues. There are times when I feel so very loved and supported. And then there are times when I feel isolated from the rest of the world, like I am on the outside looking in, and that no one can understand what it is like to be in my world. Having this disease forces me to look at life differently. It sometimes limits me, which I hate. Other times, it shows me I am capable of doing so much more than I ever thought I could possibly do. Cancer has helped me to live for today and focus on not waiting for “someday” to come. I has made me wrestle with the idea of control. For a person who is very much used to being in control of my life, it is very difficult for me to surrender and know where the line is that defines what I am in control of and what is out of my hands. I struggle with this a lot. I want to believe that I can fix this by eating right, exercising, doing everything my doctor tells me and praying. But the truth is, while it might help with my overall wellness and allow me to withstand treatment better, I do not have control over this situation. But I will keep doing what I can, and learn to let go of the things I cannot control. The thing I want people to be most aware of is to enjoy your life. Do not take a single moment for granted. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Don’t waste energy on petty details. Focus on what matters. And realize that your life can potentially change in an instant. And if it does, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.