Two Year Cancerversary
Today is my cancerversary. I can’t believe it has been two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. January 25 will forever be a date that is engraved in my mind. It was my date of diagnosis. The past couple of years have been a blur (yet it felt slow), and I can’t believe two years has passed. I hope that one day when my cancerversary date comes up, I can feel at ease about it. At first, I wasn’t sure, but when my friend Anna forgot about hers, it gave me signs of hope that one day this date will no longer be a date of misery.
Last year’s cancerversary, I was just in shock how I made it. I made it through chemo and surgeries! I briefly mentioned last year that the date brought me anxiety, but the truth was that I was miserable. I was not in the right state of mind and I had no idea what was going on with my life. There’s a whole new life I was adjusting to yet I felt like I wasn’t given time to adjust.
Before I share with you all my experience as a cancer survivor, I want you all to know I am grateful and I am blessed. I have learned that living is a luxury and should never ever be taken for granted. However, I have my moments and those moments are so hard. But would I ever want to take them away? Not at all. My experiences and my cancer journey have made me the woman that I am. I am proud of the person I have become. But life as a cancer survivor is a roller coaster.
Life As A Cancer Survivor
Long-Term Side Effects
I would have thought side effects would stop after chemo. The unfortunate truth is that they don’t. After chemo, I experienced neuropathy in my left foot. It is a weird and uncomfortable sensation. Then of course there are the joint pains. Some days I couldn’t tolerate them, and it primarily focused on my wrist. I remember a time at work when I had to carry stacks of binders and out of the blue I just dropped them. I didn’t trip or fall, my hand just collapsed, and I was embarrassed. And typing? Ugh it was the worst! I had to take frequent breaks from working because I couldn’t tolerate the pain from typing. Thankfully, with some vitamins, the joint pains are no longer as bad.
Fatigue was one of the side effects that occurred during chemo and lingered after. And for me, it was much worse after. The fatigue just drains you and you have absolutely no energy for anything. I honestly think fatigue was my biggest battle. I tried so hard to fight it, but there are days it takes over my body. Luckily, I can better manage it now. Remember how I mentioned self-care has made a positive impact in my life? Giving myself some TLC has helped me manage the fatigue.
Chemo brain is real. Here and there I would forget things. Sometimes I would forget mid-sentence or forget how to do something so familiar to me. I was able to tolerate chemo brain at home. My husband and I incorporated practices to make it easier with chemo brain.
But at work, that’s when chemo brain hit me the hardest. I remember a time I was looking at the computer screen and couldn’t remember how to do a simple request. I was so embarrassed to ask for help and when I did I got a weird look. Or I remember a time reading an email and for some reason I struggled comprehending it. I managed to have the guts to ask co-workers to explain the email to me and instead I got laughed at. I was told to ‘read the email and I’ll get my answers’. Without a doubt it made me feel awful about myself. I know it was no one’s fault, but I was ashamed to explain why I needed the help. My life as a cancer survivor was challenging in the workplace.
In general, I suffered anxiety my whole life but I’ve learned to navigate it. However, the anxiety I’ve been feeling after cancer is a feeling I’m not quite sure I know how to explain. Most of the time, I don’t even know why I am anxious except that I feel so sick to my stomach (literally). It would hit me out of the blue. I can be having a great time and all of the sudden my mood will change. I would start feeling so down, knots in my stomach, and everything just seems so much more difficult. Other times, I know why I’m anxious and it is fear of cancer. I’m scared what tomorrow might bring. I’m scared I’ll have reoccurrence, and I’m scared to lose the people I love.
I can probably go on and on but I think you all get the picture. Surviving cancer is a blessing. After all, I am alive! But at the same time, life as a cancer survivor is not always easy and it can be isolating. People who have never experienced cancer don’t seem to understand the struggles of a cancer survivor.
Where I Am in My Treatments
Most people think I’m done, but I still go in for treatments. My treatment plan is a 10 year plan. They roll out in stages. Since I finished neoadjuvant chemo and surgeries, my next step is hormone (endocrine) therapy and targeted therapy. Last February I completed one part of my targeted therapy. I completed all 17 cycles of Herceptin. Woohoo! Now I go in for Zometa every six months. Zometa is administered the same way as chemo and Herceptin. Except this time it is through my veins and not my port (I was de-ported last March during my birthday). For my hormone therapy, I take Aromatase Inhibitors daily and go in for my Zoladex shots every three months.
Do these have side effects? Heck yes! My body is currently forced to be in menopause. Being just shy of 30, it was quite the adjustment. And the weight gain is obnoxious. You know how they say freshmen 15? Well there should be a chemo 15. And of course, there are risks associated with weight gain. I can probably type out all the side effects, but to be honest, it would be as long as another blog post. My life as a cancer survivor are novels these days haha.
Looking Ahead – Continuing to Thrive
I’ve come to the realization that my battle with cancer doesn’t end just because active treatment ends. It is a lifelong battle. Either I am dealing with side effects, emotional breakdowns, or fear, the fight doesn’t just end. I still want to continue my goals with having a family. I am feeling optimistic that I can build our family. But there’s that little side of me thinking about what can go wrong. Nevertheless, I will continue to thrive each and every day, good or bad days. Overall, cancer has taught me so much about myself and life. My perception has changed about how I approach life, but as I mentioned before even though I struggled, I wouldn’t change a thing.