The end of this month will mark a year since my last chemo treatment. I can’t believe it has been a year! No more blue recliner, no more port bulging from under my skin and no more neulasta shot.
Instead of the blue recliner, I spend most of my appointments in waiting rooms and having my blood drawn. Instead of the port, just an ugly scar that even after a scar tissue excision continues to be an eye sore and uncomfortable. Instead of neulasta shots, I’ve been asked (repeatedly) to begin tamoxifen.
While I was undergoing treatment I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I couldn’t wait to have my surgery and put breast cancer behind me.
I just knew that once I was finally done with this chapter of my life, the clouds would give way to a shining sun and birds would sing songs of survival while perched on my shoulders (ok so that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the point).
I just knew things would be better, but what I didn’t know was the challenges that life after breast cancer would bring.
I’m beyond grateful to still be alive and I thank God everyday that He saw fit to allow me to make it through a diagnosis that claims the lives of many. I don’t take it for granted at all. However, there are a new set of challenges and concerns that I face now that I hadn’t considered during my anxious countdown till my last treatment.
I’m exhausted. I thought my energy would return once treatment was behind me, but I’ve found mustering up energy for everyday activities to be a challenge. It’s hard to explain to someone who sees that you look “well” that you feel like you’re barely making it. It’s an exhaustion that sleep doesn’t cure. I have a 3 year old and a 10 year old and it would be nice to always have the energy to keep up with them, but some days I don’t. I can’t. There are several mornings where my alarm goes off and I literally don’t have the energy to get out of bed. Some days I have to pull a chair in my bathroom while I’m doing my hair and makeup for the day.
I’ve returned to work and the commute which was a piece of cake before, is draining now. I’ve been so blessed to work for a company that really cares about their employees and they have modified my schedule to make things less stressful. I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m suppose to be 100% and wanting to push myself to be present full time. I’d like to think I’m superwoman and can balance work and life as usual, however, reality hit hard when my first day back full time landed me in the emergency room. My body has gone through a lot and even though I would love to hit the ground running… I can’t.
I’ve cried many tears of frustration because sometimes I’m just too tired. Just as life went on during treatment. Life continues to roll on now, whether I can keep up or not.
“Is this normal?” I constantly ask my doctors thinking the answer will be different and each time I’m told that “it takes time.” How much time does it take? Perhaps I over estimated myself or simply underestimated chemo.
More meds? I’ve been going back and forth with my doctor who “strongly suggests” that I start tamoxifen immediately. I obviously want to be here and want to do what’s best for my health, but, there’s something about the pills that puts my stomach in knots. I’ve had the bottle sitting in my medicine cabinet for a while, unopened. I’ve gone to two different oncologists who tell me my best options are tamoxifen or having my ovaries removed. I’m only 29 years old.
According to my genetic testing, I have the BRIP1 mutation, which I’ve been told puts me at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. I’ve also been told that because this mutation was just discovered there’s a lot that doctors don’t know about it. I’m not comfortable spending the next 5 years pumping this medicine into my body when there’s so much uncertainty surrounding my particular gene mutation. I’ve been told by one doctor that tamoxifen shuts downs your ovaries and something different by another.
Torn. After I gave birth to my youngest son, who is now 3, I just knew I wanted to try for a baby girl in a few years. Well, like many things in life, things didn’t go according to plan and I found myself divorced and thinking, maybe I didn’t want anymore children and marriage wasn’t for me. BUT…an amazing man came into my life and changed everything I thought I knew about love. We have talked about marriage and children, as he has no children of his own, but loves my boys as if they were his. Neither one of us saw a cancer diagnosis coming and it has changed many things. The constant reminders from my doctors about the “time quickly ticking” and urging me to decide on the pills or surgery has really been a source of stress for me, for us. While marriage has always been the plan for us, we realize that we have to be more mindful of time and we’ve prayed that fertility isn’t an issue once we prepare to cross that bridge.
While I am extremely blessed to be cancer free, the other side of a cancer diagnosis has not been a walk in the park. I am optimistic and more importantly I have faith. One day at a time…
” So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.”-Matthew 6:34
I've always believed that we tend to be the most effective in areas where we have been the most affected. It's often our deepest pains that draw us closer to our purpose. Those words never really hit home until I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 28. I had watched both my mother and grandmother battle the disease, but never thought I would find myself in the same battle, especially not so young. I've learned through this journey that it's not what you go through, but how you go through it. I wanted to share my story in hopes that it will inspire someone to keep fighting, keep the faith and live on purpose.