It’s hard to believe that two years have already passed since my diagnosis of breast cancer in February 2010. I can recall so clearly sitting in the examining room with my daughter and sister. The diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma — stage two in the right breast and stage one in the left. At that moment, I felt as though I were in a fog. Some distant voice (presumably my own) responded, “take them both.”
On April 21, I underwent surgery for a double mastectomy, with a separate procedure in May to remove 11 lymph nodes from the right breast. Chemotherapy began in July and ended on Nov. 5. I was fortunate to survive the chemo triathlon relatively well. Fatigue was the “show stopper.” The medications provided helped keep the multitude of other side effects at a manageable level. Following chemo was radiation therapy on a daily basis for five weeks. This commenced in January and completed on Feb. 5. I had survived a life-altering event and I will never be the same as a result.
Oddly enough, the hardest part of the journey came at the end. All of the treatments and appointments were over. I was so focused on staying strong, it was as if I had existed “out of my body” throughout the entire experience. Now I had to face the fear of returning back to the real world. How was I going to be able to live up to the expectations both I and others would place upon me? It seemed like an insurmountable task. I fondly recall a quote from Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle where he says: “Well, I’m going to remind myself to get out of bed every morning, and breathe in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out. I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.” That fear of retuning to real life loomed over my head.
I quickly learned how to apply the K.I.S.S. principle to my life – Keep it Simple. ’One step at a time’ became my mantra.
I can finally look at myself in the mirror every day and still see “me,” only someone different on so many levels. I envision myself emerging from a dark cocoon into the light as a bright and beautiful butterfly.
Life may not come tied up in a bow, but it’s still a gift.