In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I decided to share one of my many stories of “awareness”.
I was made aware of my cancer on January 6, 2016. I was 34 and had given birth to my third daughter 3 months prior. To hear those words knocked me down, taking the air out of lungs. Although I knew what they told me, I was not yet fully aware of how ugly this disease can get. I started my six rounds of chemo on January 22. While I was aware of the potential side effects, I wasn’t fully aware of how these drugs would effect me until January 28 when I vomited so badly, I missed the toilet and peed my pants. Later that night, I had so much diarrhea I couldn’t leave the bathroom. I sat on the throne for two hours, and when I felt it safe to try to get up, nausea struck. I puked down the front of me. This episode lasted two days. The steroids they gave to combat the nausea kept me awake for 48 hours straight, which required 24 hours of recovery sleep. They gave me a shot to help generate white blood cells – that generally take 6 weeks to grow – in a mere week. I was then aware of the pain involved in growing new cells.
On February 11, while sitting at my desk at work, I looked down, and to my dismay, my hair was coming out in clumps. Handfuls of my gorgeous hair sat like puddles in my lap. I cried so hard I had to leave work. I called my dear friends Amanda, Rene, and Ali to come help me shave my head. I had to have some control in a powerless situation. Within 2 weeks, I was completely bald. I lost my nose hair first (how awkward to have snot constantly dripping down your face). I was then aware of how important nose hairs are in the grand scheme of things.
I endured 5 more rounds of chemo after this. Each round more difficult. Each round I went into anaphylactic shock. Each round, I danced with death. I became aware of my mortality. On June 27, I had my lumpectomy. When I woke up, I had 3 fewer lymph nodes, and a huge chunk of my breast missing. I was notified and, once again, aware that cancer had returned.
I started radiation in August and did 32 sessions, ending in October. In December, I had my annual mammogram, and they once again found cancer. Another biopsy (this would now be my 5th, 3 breast, 1 liver, 1 lymph node) and once again, I was aware. In January of this year, I was made aware that I was going to lose my breasts. March 9th 2017, I had a total mastectomy, bilateral. There, a grain of salt sized tumor had turned into a 7cm tumor. I have had tissue expanders, and now implants. All because of my awareness. There is a never ending barrage of PET scans, labs, chemo for me. Never allowing me to become less aware of my cancer.
I am sharing my story, to bring awareness to you. Cancer has no cure. Thirty percent of women with stage 0, 1, or 2 breast cancer will go on to develop stage 4 metastatic cancer, where it leaves the breast and goes elsewhere: liver, brain, lungs, bone, etc. These women depend on research for longevity of life. We are literally DYING for a cure. Check your boobies. Especially you, younger ladies!