It’s amazing what a difference it makes to your life, being a cancer survivor!
Regular readers of Nana’s Blog and Facebook friends already know, but if we didn’t specifically share the news with you, well now we can. I am a cancer survivor – a breast cancer survivor.
My diagnosis came about by accident. While I was housesitting for my son and his wife who were on an around-the-world trip for eight months, Lloyd (one of the cats in my care) stuck a toenail in my left “boob” at the beginning of November 2012. When it didn’t heal quickly – within a week – I went to see my GP and a quick examination had me off to get an ultra-sound, then a biopsy and a mammogram.
If you know anything about medieval art, you may already know the “orange peel” texture of the skin occasionally depicted of the breasts of women in great art works fascinates medical experts these days, as a suspected depiction of breast cancer in women and a similar pattern was what alarmed my Doctor. He couldn’t have cared less about the hole the cat’s claw had left in me!
I saw the GP on November 12, had my ultra-sound and biopsy in the following few days and then waited a week for the results. By November 23, it was confirmed that I had Triple Negative Breast cancer and I suddenly had a breast surgeon on my team. My surgery was done December 3 and chemotherapy started in mid January 2013. Private medical insurance is an absolute blessing, when major events like this occur and you want to be fixed, and to get fixed quickly!
The surgical outcome was brilliant, with no complications at all. I had four rounds of chemotherapy over nine weeks, and apart from almost dying from septicemia after my first round of chemotherapy, things went pretty well! My oncologist is pretty laid back but even she said, “You did have us in a bit of a flap there, you know” of my admission to SJOG in Subiaco, after a previous visit to Swan Districts Hospital in an ambulance… When you see the ICU team in your room at 2:00am, you kind of guess things are not going according to plan.
There was another flap when I was bitten on the right arm (in my bed!) by a red-back spider when I was up at Stoneville not long before my last chemo treatment. It was a great pain – literally – and we couldn’t get the final chemotherapy infusion up my arm past the egg-sized lump. In the end, we had to do the chemo in the left arm. Because I had four lymph nodes removed (which all tested negative for pre-cancerous cells) when my left breast was taken off, it really was the last resort to use the left arm. However, we had no choice on the day.
I first wrote this in July 2013: I am on three monthly reviews and feel fabulous!
Not everyone is this lucky, I know, and I am very grateful for the help, support and medical care I have had, in the past six months. It was my support network, particularly on Facebook, which really helped me get through some of the worst days – and shared my best days, too.
In the time since then, until now in December 2015, my medical support has remained unquestionably wonderful.
I didn’t lose my hair from the chemo – but I did have a head shave, for charity. That was rather ironic, actually. My oncologist says I am a freak and that ALL her women patients lose their hair! So, now, I wore lots of turban style hats, (very stylish) while my hair grew back. It was the Great Gatsby look for me!
As it turned out, my head was shaved twice again, each time a year apart, but not for my cancer. Now, at the end of 2015, my hair is lustrous and thick – the best it has been in years. Again, I am very lucky.
A Cancer Survivor’s Blog
On Facebook and Twitter, I am often asked to blog about my cancer journey and about being a cancer survivor. I am giving a few talks at events, too. So, what do I have to say?
In retrospect, this is it:
* be focused around having a great support network (mine is Facebook);
* being positive about your personal survival (even with Triple Negative Cancer, I never thought for a moment I would die);
* totally trust your medical team (they genuinely want you to get well);
* stay away from all the scams that prey on your fears (I mean to say, how much bi-carb water can you drink in a day? Your body sets its own pH levels for different parts of your body and the juice of half a lemon is not going to radically change anything even though it is good for you, overall);
* if anyone hassles you about using marijuana or other stuff and it’s not for you, tell them in no uncertain terms you are not interested and you know what you are doing (the amount of misinformation and scams there are on the internet is just disgusting, frightening and downright criminal)
* have a great plan for getting on with life as soon as you can (mine was getting back to writing) and now I am building a whole new career as at Nutrimetics consultant.
* be prepared for some dreadful days if you are doing chemo or radiation (OMG – you start to wonder if the cure is worse than the complaint);
* have deep and genuine GRATITUDE for everything good in your life and trust your instincts
* don’t become your cancer (it is not you, it is just something that is happening to your body, right now)
I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am – many beautiful women (and men) will not survive or get through their treatment as quickly as I did. I just happened to have a breast cancer that was much more easily dealt with through my surgery than anyone, the surgeon included, expected. My chemo was backup AND an option to kill any cancerous cell that may still be in my body – because with Triple Negative Breast Cancer there are no hormone markers we can track and target. So, we watch, test, and wait.
My blog and my Facebook page are all about being GRATEFUL, eating and sleeping well, having great friends and loving your life, whatever it brings you. A bonus has been a little weight loss, from all the “desired” places and getting back into my wedding dress from twenty eight years ago.
It was my support network, particularly on Facebook, which really helped me get through some of the worst days – and shared my best days, too. I have had amazing support from Facebook friends and through my page at Lesley Dewar and my new business is off to a great start at Stories My Nana Tells
Whatever happens, remember: Every day above the ground is a GREAT day.