It’s been 22 years.
I left the exam room and saw the faces of my little girls sitting patiently in the waiting room. What I saw in the technician’s face told me all I needed to know. I had Breast Cancer. It woudn’t be until the Dr. called me that night to say the words, did it become official, but I knew.
The following days of surgery, and phone calls and more surgery and scary words and more phone calls and Dr. visits and chemo, no hair and sleepless nights were a blur. I put my head down and powered through. The final chemo day was followed with 5 years of Tamoxifen and checks and rechecks. Then years of my head buried in the sand, avoiding the word Cancer. Never really feeling the fear that was under the surface. Then a miracle happened. I woke up. I realized after 14 long years, I wasn’t going to die from this. I didn’t have a clue what I would die from. I was like everyone else.
This freed me to stand up. Freed me to talk about my deepest fears. It freed me to look Cancer in the eye and say “I beat you!”
As you start your journey, I cannot tell you how to act or what to do. But I do encourage you if possible to remain present. I also encourage you when looking at the “odds” to always wee yourself on the winning side. I NEVER looked at how many died from what I was facing, I looked at who survived.
Now as this 22 year old Survivor I realize I have received an amazing gift. Cancer? A gift? Be open to seeing those around you who come out of the woodwork to support you. Accept their care graciously. Look in the mirror at the tired face, marked with determination and know the person looking back at you is stronger than she/he may realize. Then one day, in the not too distant future, you will know, you cannot and will not be beaten.
Survivor Letters are letters from those living with breast cancer to those who have been newly diagnosed. I use the term “survivor” as an all-encompassing one, to include not only those who have completed treatment, but for all of us who are living with this disease. It is a dynamic community lending voices of hope, courage, compassion, and support to those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. If you are interested in contributing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.