Many of the emotions felt during my breast cancer journey coexisted. I’m sure that fear formed part of my feeling of shock. When you hear you have a potentially deadly disease, it’s normal to feel fear. However, there was a specific incident that threw me into full fear mode.
After returning from our visit to PA for Christmas, I met with the oncologist who had more information to share. I thought we’d plan for 7 weeks of radiation treatment followed by hormone blocking pills, and I’d be done. I told everyone that. I was wrong. One of the test scores showed the likelihood of breast cancer returning unless I had chemotherapy, too. Chemotherapy was a word I had dreaded hearing ever since I was diagnosed!
Next, I went to the radiation oncologist, who used a lot of big words as he was known to do, to tell me this: to decrease my chances of recurrence greatly, my choice was mastectomy or chemo. They’d have similar outcomes. I’m sure which word was worse to hear!
I hadn’t had anyone close to me that suffered through breast cancer and treatment. I felt panicked. I didn’t want either of my choices. I had to choose, and since I preferred to not have a mastectomy, my only option was chemotherapy. Ironically, my cancer was already gone, removed by the surgery, yet I had to go through a full course of treatment.
I want to pause here to give a virtual hug to all those women who have had mastectomies. No doubt it’s an emotionally difficult road to travel, filled with fear and other emotions. You’re beautiful and amazing, through and through.
Chemotherapy can be a formidable adversary as well as a life saver. It’s flat out destructive. Although my three chemo drugs’ benefits targeted my breast cancer type, they destroyed many cells all over the body and caused problems throughout. One of the drugs was called the red devil. I had to have a port put into a large vein because the red devil would burn the smaller veins. Nice. I was really looking forward to the that.
My oncologists wanted me to start treatment as soon as possible. My surgeon scheduled port surgery and in less than a week, I started chemo, sore surgical area and all. That was probably the scariest day of all.
How did I get through it? By taking it one day at a time. There’s no magic. The love and support of family and friends was critical. Sometimes, I just needed to talk. Jeff was with me every step of the way, acknowledging but not feeding my fear. I relied a lot on getting answers to my questions – the fear brought out my questioning nature – from my oncologist. I researched and read. I prayed, asking God to see me through this. I never convinced myself to not be afraid, and, frankly, fear never fully went away. But most days, I learned to overcome it.
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