When does one begin to say they are a breast cancer survivor? I have finished the treatments. The medical profession has cut, poisoned and nuked the part of me that contained the psychotically rapid dividing cells known as cancer. I did survive that, with some scary moments of wondering involved. Or do I have to wait until the recommended five years of drug therapy is finished to declare "I made it!" If , that is, I do make it?
I don't want to be ridiculed at a cancer march or a run for the cure as they applaud the champions who beat this disease when I have yet to find out if indeed we did "get it all" or if there is some little piece that survived, starting to multiply some place else as we speak.
It's a very real concern. Worse than the nightmare about going to Sunday school without my underwear on.
I don't know what to trust anymore. My body let me down once. Will it do it again?
They say that one third of women with hormone dependant tumors (like mine) will have a recurrence. Better than half of those five years or more after surgery. Because I opted for the adjunct therapy (the chemo and radiation) combined with surgery my chance of the cancer coming back goes down. I think I'm at a 3-5% chance. It's still enough to make you worry. I've beaten lower odds before in the luck-less life lottery.
Saying you're a survivor implies the war is over but for me, the battle has just begun. This is going to be a life-long assault of learning and doing what I can to survive not just now, but for as many years as I can squeak out of this body.
So despite everything that's been done, I'm determined to keep the numbers on my side. It's a betting game with no guarantees and you must do what you can to help. Swallow large fish oil and Green Tea capsules (anti-oxidants), stuff in the blueberries by the handful, drink the green spirulina/algae with your nose pinched, drag your butt to the swimming pool, fill those lungs with good clean fresh air, drink water not wine and whatever you do ...don't sweat the small stuff.
Possibly when I'm on my last breath, when I have lived a much longer life, I will finally declare myself a breast cancer survivor. Until then...Game On!
Monday, March 21, 2011
It's official enough to crack the champagne- an incredibly delicious bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, compliments of Terry Halpin. He gave it to me when the cancer-thing began and said it was for celebrating once I reached the other end of the situation. And I think I've done that! I'm still a little tired after I exert myself, like on Sunday when Sandi and I ran our usual 40 minutes through Houston or today when I swam at the pool. These excursions are usually followed by a mandatory nap as I can barely stay awake for the day if I don't. The side scars from the lymph node removal and the drainage tube still bother me. Its like I have a second armpit; the indent is quite pronounced. I saw my massage therapist who manipulated the skin around the scar to loosen the sticking fascia. It feels better but still aches after a day of skiing and jarring myself on the moguls or reaching for the next stroke in the pool. The nerve endings are repairing from the shoulder to the elbow joint so I can feel a lot more now. But the greatest thing is the past month of semi-depression seems to be lifting. It's difficult when you get spit out at the end of your treatments. You now have time to face everything that happened. You have to look at yourself- at what now faces you in the mirror-and re-evaluate. You have to forgive your old self, accept your new self and face the fact that this might not be the end of "that" side-road. That there might be a re-lapse, a different cancer pop up after all that radiation, a side-effect might appear from the chemo drugs, from the new drugs, from fate itself. You tell yourself you can take whatever comes and you mostly mean it. You've come so far already. OMG. Look at how far I HAVE come. Did I really go through that Hell and survive? And that's why you get depressed. It's an emotional process of shedding off the old skin and trying to get comfortable in this new, cut-up and re-sewn, blasted and poisoned short-haired body that remains. Just add a little eyeshadow, pencil in some eyebrows and set the alarm clock. No napping ALL day for this girl!