My journey with breast cancer
I can still remember how the white protective paper crinkled beneath me while hot tears streamed toward my ears. The nurse and radiologist spoke in whispers. My husband stood tall at the foot of the table with his hand on my leg. In my head I pled--with God or whomever--that this wasn't what the doctors thought it was. How could it be? I was thirty-three. I had just birthed a healthy baby eight months earlier. I breast-fed that baby. I have no family history. How could this be breast cancer?
I felt hopeless that afternoon back in 2008. I was certain that I would die--soon. I made my husband promise that he would remarry so that our daughter would have a mother. I was hysterical at the thought that I would miss my daughter's first steps, her first birthday, her first everything.
That feeling of hopelessness eventually turned into anger and resentment. I hated my friends for not having to go through what I was going through. I hated the random new mom pushing her stroller through Target because all she had to worry about was getting diapers for her baby while I had that on my to-do list as well as chemotherapy the following day. I hated my neighbor for telling me she was pregnant just minutes after I told her I had cancer. And I hated having to tell my parents that their only daughter was sick.
Anger and resentment fell to champion as I demanded that a tear was not to be shed. When I needed others to lift me up, I quickly learned it was my job to reassure them that everything would be OK. I told my mother about my diagnosis just days before I was to have surgery to remove my tumor because I couldn't handle the pep talk responsibility.
Champion turned to poster child. I was outfitted from head to toe in pink with a yellow rubber bracelet to tie the look together. I was diagnosed in October during breast cancer awareness month and--lucky me--I was given everything from pink M&Ms to perfume to remind me that I was fighting this disease. At the time, I embraced it and some days miss its perks. You can't believe the stuff you can get away with while wearing a scarf on your head and slapping a sticker to "Save the Ta-Tas" on your car.
Hopelessness reared its ugly head again but this time coupled with fear and despair when I was too sick from treatment to stand in the shower by myself. This trifecta presented itself again when we took our daughter to visit Santa Claus for the first time and strands of my hair stared back at me from the palm of my hand. The next day my husband shaved my head in the middle of our kitchen and I cried my eyes out.
I mark October 23, 2009--one year post-surgery--as the day I felt like a true survivor. I beamed with elation, so much so, I threw myself a party to celebrate. And while that feeling of elation still sits with me I know I can't rest on it. Cancer is incurable. The statistics are not great. These are the things that keep me feeling a little bit fearful, but--like my fight with cancer--I fight to stay hopeful and optimistic about my future.
Wendy is donating her pay for this post to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. And In The Powder Room will be proudly matching all the writers' donations this week.