Looking back I remember feeling like cancer robbed me of my control. Now, further into my battle I have come to realize that being a cancer survivor is all about having control. True, there is a physical battle that one undertakes but that’s nothing to the emotional struggle that survivors have to endure day in and day out. It gets exhausting. It’s frustrating and sometimes it feels like you are being held prisoner to the fight that goes on in your head because it doesn’t always leave room for other normal, happy thoughts. That’s where control comes in. You need to gain control of your thoughts. You need to remain positive, hold strong to your faith…even as you are bombarded with news that sometimes does not support what you believe. And to be honest I suck at doing this! So I’ve decided, the control-freak-type-A-person-that-I-am, to give up my control….to give it to God. He guards my thoughts and heart way better than I do. I sway back and forth alone. I’ve also learned that I need to acknowledge those thoughts and fears. Be ok with the fact that they do sometimes pop in my head; realize where they come from, but then move on.
Four weeks ago I had a lumpectomy and auxiliary lymph node dissection. The lumpectomy was a breeze but the node dissection causes a burning in your arm from nerve damage. I’m hoping it goes away sooner or later. When I look into the mirror I see my scars – over my breast, in my armpit, by my collarbone, and the one from my C-section – they are a constant reminder that this is not a dream. After surgery I was told that they got IT all, the margins were clean….Thank you God!
With surgery comes the pathology report- they send in the tissues to be evaluated so we can learn more information about what has happened in my body. Again, the report showed what we already knew…my cancer had little response to the chemo for whatever reason. But we saw the extent of it; my cancer did something that they rarely see…it grew during my treatment. They found evidence of cancer in 13 out of 20 of the nodes they removed. One of the tumors grew from 0.4 cm to 3 cm. What’s more, my estrogen receptors only slightly increased….where about half of the tumor cells need estrogen to grow. This information means that I am now “restaged” to a more advanced cancer stage, 3C. So in a nutshell, these stages provide statistics and this new stage drastically increases my chance of the cancer coming back, especially since the chemo was considered ineffective. It puts me one stage away from 4 which is considered “incurable” by the medical field.
So that’s it….in that little paragraph I shared all my bad news. Now you’ve read it, don’t dwell on it, let’s move on….I have (although it took me a good week J ).
Trial and suffering expose and refine true faith. Sometimes it takes bad news to really kick ourselves in gear, to dial in closer to God and light fire to our determination. Before this news I obviously took this fight seriously but I was still putting a lot of hope into our medicine. That’s not where my hope should lie. With this information my focus has been redirected, my resolve set to over-drive, my faith clinging on hard. I’m in God’s hands and God has reminded me he provided me a great gift…my incredible drive and my love for life. I will use that drive to let no stone go unturned and to push through dire circumstances. This news made me realize that I need a change, a radical life change. I’ve learned to welcome this news because without it I still was facing a serious situation….yet I wasn’t ready to be drastic in my fight. Anyone can have their cancer come back. People with stages 1 and 2 can have it recur and someone with stage 3 can go on living without it ever rearing its ugly head again. Hearing you are in remission does not give you an excuse to sit back, relax and let nature take its course in my book. I’m set to do as much as I can to prevent this from ever taking away from my life again!
I went running last night for the first time since my chemo-ridden body had to stop about 4 months ago. It was a very emotional thing for me. Running is such a big part of my life and every time I ran I would thank God afterwards for the ability to do so. It was tough when it was taken from me. The first mile or so my lungs burned. I haven’t felt that whole out-of-practice-lung-sensation since I was in Jr. High. I thought to myself this is my “Restart”. My body needs to relearn how to run again but this Restart isn’t just about running; it’s me getting back to normal….my new normal. They say nothing will ever be the same after your first child. What about after your first child and a battle with cancer? Truly everything has changed for me and it will never go back to life as I knew it.
In the past weeks since my surgery I’ve radically changed my diet to only raw-vegan. I juice anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds of fruits and vegetables a day and take many, many supplements. My health has become a part-time job. I’ve spent every moment during Amari’s naps to research what is cancer, why conventional treatments don’t always work, alternative treatments, and recurrence risk reduction with diet and exercise. Yet I feel I’ve just touched the surface. The problem with the medical field is that they put so much emphasis on their drugs that leave our bodies in ruin, unable to fight off any future infection or disease. This is why so many people fight the good fight to only have their cancer come back down the road. You are taught to just sit and wait and hope that it doesn’t come back. Then once you are told it’s Stage 4 you pull out all the stops, doing everything you can…and sometimes, most of the time, it’s already too late. It would be easy for me to sit back and wait. But the easy road isn’t always the best route to take. Giving up many of the foods I love is not easy! Extending my leave from work to focus on my health is not easy. Finding time to juice and being on a structured-by-the-hour supplementation program is not easy. Getting 8 hours of sleep with a newborn is not easy. Removing stress out of my life is not easy. This is my new normal.
Recently my faith was tested and made stronger. Since I gave up control of my thoughts my fear has almost completely subsided. Sure, before this I was able to get it under control but it would always push its way back in my head. This isn’t a chore anymore….the fearlessness comes naturally now! It’s interesting that with bad news came peace. There’s a valuable lesson there….sometimes it takes rain to bring the sunshine. Before you get down on yourself or upset that nothing seems to ever go your way remember that it could be just what you need to make a change. A change that will spark resolution, contentment, and even joy.
Thank you to the lovely ladies at Agape Moments for this gift of pictures. We will forever cherish these moments.