Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day 20: Inadequacy

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When you’re young, you dream of what you want to be. As you get older, you hope you can fill certain roles well. I wanted to be a good daughter, wife, mother and friend. I wanted to go to church and be a good Christian. I wanted to be good at whatever career I chose, and to create and maintain a nice, attractive home. I wanted to be a good person and to be there for others. When I was in breast cancer treatment, I felt too inadequate to fill these roles.

Where do I begin? My surgery required a short recovery. It bothered me more emotionally than physically. As for breast cancer treatment, in the short term, it made me sick, weak, in pain, and, since chemo kills blood cells, vulnerable to infection. I felt the worst of those effects for more than six months, then slowly began to recover.

The feelings of inadequacy came when I couldn’t meet my own expectations. Let’s start with my family. In normal times, I cooked and cleaned up the house, grocery shopped, ran errands, and so on. When I was feeling sick from treatment, I couldn’t cook, clean, drive, shop or do much of anything. The guys fed themselves, did chores, and served me. In the beginning, I was sick on treatment week and more capable the next. Once I developed anemia and had been multiple treatments, I was always weak. I felt like the most inadequate mother and wife ever.

I wrote a whole post yesterday about being frustrated about the things I couldn’t do at my desired level during my son’s senior year. That added to the feelings of inadequacy. My personal interactions with my sons, husband, and friends weren’t always normal. Who wants to talk to a drowsy, out-of-it mom? Who wants to touch someone who’s sensitive to it? I could go on about my feelings of inadequacy, but I think you get the picture.

While I was in treatment, I didn’t go to church. I tried a couple times, but my white cell count was always too low to risk it. I swear church is the worst place for coughing and sneezing! Once when I went to mass, I had an anxiety attack about the germs, left early, and didn’t go back until all treatment was over and my white cells had recovered. It was an inadequate way to show my faith. I talked to God regularly, knowing he understood.

Lastly, I’ll address my feelings of professional inadequacy. It was hard for me to work the hours needed to do my job, and my thinking wasn’t on the level as it had been. I reduced my hours from 40 to 30. I reduced them again to 20, and finally, I quit. My employer wasn’t happy, but I just couldn’t stay awake to do the work anymore. I needed out.

I still feel somewhat inadequate from the lingering effects from chemo, now four years later. My family and friends don’t know and didn’t then feel the same way, it’s a problem with my self-perception. Have you experience this?

When you’re not thinking and feeling right, it’s hard to shift your mental state. Try to not be so hard on yourself. Know that others don’t think poorly of you. They care about you and understand what you’re going through. Do things for yourself that are positive. Call a friend. Take a walk outside. Play with your pet. Write in a journal. It will keep you from dwelling on those feelings of inadequacy.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 19: Frustrated

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Being trapped in a body that’s going through cancer treatment creates one big fat frustrated feeling. I think the emotion resulted from a simmering down of anger, shock, sadness, anxiety and regret. I became mad about what I was feeling physically and how my life had changed. I was sick, upset, and extremely frustrated with my situation.

A major source of frustration surrounded the timing of my cancer diagnosis and treatment during my younger son’s senior year in high school. I looked back on my older son’s year, remembering it filled with “lasts” – concerts, banquets, photos, prom – and commemorative events like senior day, graduation, and a graduation party. Those days felt bittersweet as it’s wonderful to celebrate and see your child move forward in life, yet you know they’re leaving childhood and, in some measure, their need for you behind.

I treasured the memories from Jared’s senior year and wanted to repeat them with Tristan. With my treatment plan laid out, I was afraid that the activities would happen without my presence. I wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t live through this cancer. My case was treatable. There are many women with breast cancer and people with other cancers that face that potential reality, and I feel greatly for them. In my case, I was afraid I’d be too sick or weak to attend.

The notable events for Tristan’s year were planned for April and May, right during the time I developed anemia! In addition to this, Jeff and I had planned to see Wicked in Dallas in May as he’d bought the tickets as my Christmas gift. I was so frustrated that I had to be in such a bad state to attend and to enjoy all the upcoming events. I wanted to force myself to feel better. Unfortunately, I was powerless to do so. I had to rely on Jeff and carry on as I was.

I was able to take Tristan to a photography his senior photos for us, one of the easier things on my list. When prom came, we went to a pretty area near our house and photographed Tristan and his girlfriend. I didn’t last as long as Jeff and the teens. That was okay. I enjoyed the choir concert, although I remember feeling a bit out of it, especially when getting through to the seats and talking with a few people. Senior day – well, Tristan didn’t think it was such a big deal but I wanted to be there to show support and my pride in him, no matter if he wasn’t receiving any awards. Getting to the gym and bleachers was a challenge. I wanted to sit with friends. I needed help to climb a few bleacher seats. It’s scary to climb stairs when you’re weak and unsteady! I made it through the ceremony, not very comfortably but determinedly.

As for my non-school related event, Wicked, it came up when I felt absolutely weak and out of it. I’d wanted to see the play for years. I wanted to spend time with Jeff, who so thoughtfully bought the expensive tickets. It wasn’t an easy day, especially with lower balcony seats. Fortunately, they weren’t far down the steps and again (always!) with Jeff’s help, I made it. It was a great show. The scenery was amazing! I’m sure I slept on the way home.

The most difficult events were yet to come: the graduation ceremony and party. I cried many tears of frustration over these events! And now. Okay, give me a minute……………………………… I’m back. Of all the things that happened during cancer, I didn’t want ANY of it ruined for Tristan. I wanted it to be a joyful year for him. I didn’t want him to feel cheated out of things because of me. It had to be PERFECT. I’d guess many of you can relate to this.

For my older son, Jared, the graduation party was a picnic with family and friends. Tristan enjoyed it and wanted the same. I had in my mind how it would be. Could I make it happen? I reserved the park pavilion early, no problem. There was food to plan, shop for, and make. Party supplies to buy. Decorating to happen. Packing, transporting, and set up of the food. Things to be done during the party concerning food and guests. Ugh! Everything would be 20 times harder than before. I’d need to pace myself and scale down some plans. I did NOT like that.

I remember that my in-laws were visiting, and we were sitting at the kitchen table discussing the party. I got so frustrated and anxious that I just cried and said, “I don’t know if I can do it. I need help.” I had to leave the room to settle. They really hadn’t seen me do that before, so I may have surprised them. I don’t know. But they’re always there to help family and, when I returned to the table, asked what they could do. We talked about food they could bring and how they could help during the party. When the day came, I helped to set up as I could but had many hands and feet and hearts, especially hearts, doing most of the work. It was frustrating to be too weak to do more. Tristan’s friends came and family came and we had an enjoyable evening. Phew!

One more thing to talk about! The ceremony. The school district holds its graduation ceremonies at the Coliseum at the University of North Texas. It’s a big open basketball arena, plenty of room for more than 500 graduates. For the audience, you walk in on a level above the floor and half the bleachers. That means walking down steep steps. I’m not kidding about the steepness of these stadium steps! I knew I couldn’t go down those steps. Two years earlier, I couldn’t sit close for Jared’s ceremony because my mom was with us, and she couldn’t walk the steps. She and I sat apart from Jeff’s family because they were already seated. Now, it was happening again. I was forcing my family to sit up high and not have the best view – this time, we were seated first and everyone joined us. This was the most frustrating thing; I didn’t like impacting their enjoyment. I was sad about it, but what choice did I have?  It would have been nice to sit lower and closer to the floor, but I could never have been prouder to see Tristan sing with the choir and to get his diploma.

I still don’t know how I got through it all. I let my determination become a source of inspiration and motivation. If I could walk and function, I wasn’t going to let anything slip through the cracks. I wasn’t going to let frustration get the best of me, and it didn’t! I made it!

When you’re in a difficult situation like this, find your fire. Find what drives you. You may have to lower expectations a bit and ask for help. Remember, everyone understands that you need it. There are times when you can’t do what you want because you’re too sick or too vulnerable to illness. These days, we can find ways to be a part of things at a distance through live-streaming and videos. Do what you can without compromising your health.

When you are allowed and able to go out, don’t let frustration bring you down. Make plans, dream dreams, and let those lead you to joy.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 18: Embarrassed

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On Day 18 of posts, I wonder in how many of the previous posts I’ve mentioned my hair loss. Quite a few, I think! It’s an impactful, distressing event. After a couple treatments, my hair was coming out in handfuls and getting all over everything. When I finally let my husband shave my head, I cried a lot. You know, those big, ugly sobs that have a hiccup to them. Once I got past that, I knew I had to face the world as a hairless woman.

I was embarrassed by the way I looked. I lost my head hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes, all things that framed my face in a way that says, hey, that’s Denise. Now, I looked different, and I felt ashamed. Even with scarves, hats, and eyebrow pencils, it was hard to go out and be seen. Embarrassment diminished my self-confidence.

There were embarrassing things caused by cancer and treatment other than hair loss. Surgery made me look different. I won’t go into the embarrassing details, only to say it wasn’t confidence-inspiring. When I had anemia, my skin became very pale. The mirror showed a ghost of myself! I guess I looked like a cancer patient.

Not every embarrassing feeling I had was related to my appearance. I was weaker than my usual self, and it was noticeable. When my son had his senior day, I couldn’t go high in the bleachers because it was too hard to walk up those steps. When my husband took me to a play, I was unsteady getting to our seats. At times, I used a cane, and I needed the handicapped parking spots. I felt very self-conscious from all these changes.

I also felt embarrassed when I broke down emotionally. When I cried during the nurses’ attempts to access my port, I felt ashamed that I was crying. Needing a lot of help, at least at first, caused me to feel embarrassed. I was more forgetful while on chemo, couldn’t think as clearly as usual. Sometimes, I felt like my head was floating on a cloud, especially when I had the anemia. None of this was very self-assuring.

You might think, oh, that’s silly. You had a terrible disease with matching treatment. It’s okay for these things to happen. I’m sure I said things like this to other people! But when it happens to you, you react. Your mind shuts down and emotion floods in. There’s no stopping it. And guess what: that’s okay. Feeling is living, and it’s important to give yourself permission to feel.

Once you’ve let your emotions flow through, then you can take a step back and think about what to do next. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control your actions. I got into wearing and shopping for scarves. I went to a class on makeup from the American Cancer Society, which turned out hilarious because I tried all the makeup and looked like an overdone clown! It was funny and I enjoyed the event.

I made fun of myself and laughed about my looks regularly. It put others at ease. As for my weakness and my thinking issues, there wasn’t anything I could do about those. I mostly stayed home yet when something important was happening, I vowed to not miss it, and I didn’t, even if it was difficult for me.

Don’t let embarrassment control your life. When you feel it coming on, forge ahead anyway. Laugh at yourself and include your family and friends. Do what’s important to you as long as you can physically manage it and the doctor gives the go-ahead. The rewards are usually much greater than the few embarrassing moments you may experience. Be proud that your facing this challenge of cancer and treatment, overcoming it every day you’re alive.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 17: Resentful

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When I was wrapped up in chemo for the first few months of breast cancer treatment, I tried to get through each day as best I could. I wasn’t too focused on the world around me. As May hit and I became aware that people were getting out and doing things, I felt resentful that I couldn’t live like they were.

It’s not nice to say you’re resentful or jealous of someone. My feelings weren’t directed toward others but to the differences in our situations. I’d think, I’d love to go on a trip to a beach like I saw online, or I want to go to our annual Arts and Jazz fest that I attend every year. I was too sick and weak for these wishes to be granted.

Sometimes, I felt resentful about having to go to treatment. I was about to switch to the “T” part of AC-T treatment, a drug called Taxol. I’d now have weekly treatments for 10 weeks.  I know I was doing it to prevent cancer from developing, yet it seemed like a burden to go every week. Everyone at the cancer treatment room was so nice and understanding, and Jeff was always there for me. Sometimes, I felt well enough to go to lunch afterward, making it a little easier to bear.

As for the treatments, I certainly resented that I was feeling side effects. For this chemo, there was still weakness and joint pain. I know the Taxol was impacting me, but I’m not sure I ever fully recovered my strength after I had anemia, and my red blood cell count remained a bit low. As I continued through the weeks, I got so tired that I could hardly work, had to cut my hours for a second time, and eventually quit the job because I just couldn’t stay awake while writing.

At some point, I developed mouth sores that were very painful. Later in the Taxol weeks, I could tell that I was getting peripheral neuropathy, which I still suffer from. I was resentful of my hair loss. Who wants to look in the mirror and see a bald head and no eyebrows or lashes? I wanted to be back to myself. I was never perfect but things were better. I wanted to be like other “normal” people. I was mad at the world!

Upon thinking about it, appearances can deceive you into thinking someone is carefree with fewer problems than you. Often, it’s not true. Their problems might not be same as yours but they still have them. During treatment, I tried to keep things in perspective, remembering that other people are going through tough times, too.

Another thing that helped me with my resentment was the joy I felt from the attention of my friends and family. They spent time with me, brought lunch, sent gifts, all things I mentioned in earlier posts. I never felt a dirty look or a heard a bad word toward my situation. Positivity is important and a great antidote to resentment.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 16: Awareness

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I’ve made it through half of my blog posts, so it seemed like a good time to write something that’s a bit less about me and about a lot of other people, too many others, who have been affected breast cancer and other cancers. During my journey, I felt aware of what was going on in the cancer setting. I’ve learned a lot about the disease, especially breast cancer, and the ways in which people suffer. I’ve learned from doctors, books, websites, organizations, and people who’ve had cancer. Learning took place from my day 1 diagnosis and is still ongoing. I’d like to share a bit with you.

I became aware of certain facts about breast cancer. I was shocked to learn the facts cited here from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime
  • A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. once every two minutes
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, other than skin cancers
  • 64% of breast cancer is diagnosed as localized or not spread outside the breast – it has a 99% 5-year survival rate
  • In 2020, the estimated number of women that will die from breast cancer is 42,170 with over 350,000 new cases arising (about ¾ invasive, ¼ non-invasive.
  • A small percentage (.25%) of people have the BRCA gene that makes them more likely to develop breast cancer and at a younger age
  • Men can get breast cancer, estimated diagnosis of 2,620 men in 2020 with 520 deaths

Let it sink in. It’s way too many women with the disease and dying from it, along with the smaller number of men. It’s sad, and it needs to change.

Before I had breast cancer, I hadn’t heard a lot of related terminology. When people talked about metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also called stage 4 cancer, I didn’t know what it was. I became aware, so I learned. It’s cancer that’s spread from the breast to other parts of the body. With breast cancer, if it spreads, it most commonly attacks the bones, liver, lungs, chest wall, or brain. Some other cancers can spread like this including lung, prostate, colon, and rectal cancers.

When cancer spreads, it’s still the same cancer. If a person’s breast cancer moves into the bones, she has breast cancer in her bones. The same thinking applies to any spreading cancer.

Cancer can be discovered at any stage, even as pre-cancerous cells or cells in stage 0. My cancer was considered stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma, based on tumor size and that it hadn’t spread into lymph nodes. Some people aren’t diagnosed until the cancer is at an advanced stage 3, or has already metastasized to stage 4. Treatment becomes more difficult in later stages. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for MBC is 22%.

Some women with MBC live for years under treatment. Still, we lose too many, too soon. If you have MBC, I want to recognize you, to honor you for your fight. I can’t know your battle, physically and emotionally, but I know you’re an amazing person that will work to defy the odds. Readers, keep these women in your thoughts and prayers.

On a different note, I want to recognize women who’ve had a mastectomy, which is breast removal, and extensive breast surgery. I chose a lumpectomy, and I’m still self-conscious about the changes in my body. For some women, mastectomy the best lifesaving option. The surgery and recovery is difficult and leads to self-image adjustment and emotional changes. Reconstruction surgery is very hard to go through, too, if elected. I’ve seen these women, known these women, and I think of them no differently than I would otherwise. They are beautiful, smart, kind, successful whatever they were before and more because of all they’ve gone through!

I honor those of you who have cancer now of any type, or who have been through it. It leaves behind long-term side effects and the fear of return. Also, I feel for those of you who have lost a loved one due to cancer. It’s always too soon. They’re always with you in memories.

I hope you’ve developed a feeling of awareness that led to learning. I’m happy to answer any questions. Comment here, on my Facebook post, or by personal contact. I’m not an expert but if I can help, I will. Also, if I got anything wrong, let me know! Until then, get YOUR annual mammograms and talk to your doctor about any suspicious lumps, knots, pains, irritations that won’t go away, and so on. If you believe something is wrong, keep going until you get an answer. Your life depends on it.

Act on your awareness and understanding. Please be kind to women with breast cancer and others with cancer. Reach out to talk or help. Donate to organizations for support and research. We need to keep fighting to cure breast cancer and all other cancers.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 14: Overwhelmed

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Cancer and its treatments complicate life. I’d say, “understatement of the year,” but it’s been quite a year! When cancer comes at you, much of what happens is overwhelming. First, medical professionals are saying, “You have breast cancer.” The oncologist visits begin, and there are many appointments throughout the process. it’s about tests to go through, finding out your cancer stage and specific type of cancer. Echocardiogram. Bone Density. CAT scan. Decisions to make. Which way to go with lumpectomy or mastectomy. Whether to go through with the chemo recommended by my doctor, because my number on the gene test (Oncotype) was on the edge. There are surgeries for the cancer removal and port surgery, common for breast cancer patients. Then the treatments start.

The above paragraph is chock full of information! It’s written in that way to show how dealing with cancer can be so overwhelming. There’s so much to deal with. By the time my treatments started, my mind was reeling with all I had to do and learn.

As I’ve said before, I love finding out every detail of things I want to learn. I researched my medical issue online, in addition to reading what the doctors sent home with me. I read about the disease, the tests, the surgeries and the treatments. I read about side effects and how to guard against them. I tried to find out about survival and recurrence rates. I needed to know the facts about cancer.

I had many questions that I couldn’t find answers to online. Some Facebook friends had experienced breast cancer and provided a good resource. Everyone was so kind and helpful. One person (you know who you are) answered many questions, even some that were very personal. Ironically, I had never met her before we spoke. She’s a friend of a friend who reached out and became my consultant and friend. The pink sisterhood really does form a bond between people, I think more than for any other cancer. I wish that weren’t so.

I took all this in and took in more and some more until I just had to take a break and say, “That’s enough, just be.” My mind was racing too fast, and I had to slow it down, pet my dog, Sasha, talk to Jeff or one of the boys, call my mom, or rest. I found things that made me smile and not require thinking much. It cleared my mind, reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Some of you may be information junkies like me. Others may prefer to get all the information from the mouths of doctors and nurses. No way is right or wrong. If you’re like me and you have cancer or another serious illness, remember to take a step back each day and just be. Jump off the cancer merry-go-round that overwhelms you. Knowledge and understanding are important. You still have to go to all your medical appointments, but those don’t happen every day. Take the time to enjoy your family, pets, and friends. Read. Catch up on Netflix. Watch a good Hallmark show! Relax as much as you can because the merry-go-round is still spinning, and you’ll feel better when you have to jump back on.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 13: Regret

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Regret is a funny thing. I have regrets in life and feel embarrassed or stupid about some choices and actions from my past. When it comes to choices, though, if I’d made different ones, my life may have turned out differently.

For example, when I first started taking graduate courses, I was offered an instructional design internship with a prestigious company in the Chicago area. I was afraid of figuring out moving, living expenses for the summer, and not knowing enough to do the job. It was NOT a good decision, career-wise, and could have propelled me further, faster. I regretted it. However, if I’d taken the job, I may have moved to Chicago for good, met a guy in Chicago, or other possibilities. Maybe I wouldn’t have met Jeff and created the life and family we have. NO regrets about that!

I’ve talked throughout the posts about my sickness with chemotherapy. You’ll read about how weak it made me in an upcoming post. So, what’s my regret? It’s that I wasn’t in better to shape to handle the effects of treatment.

Many people get very sick during chemo. Different drugs for various types of cancer have different effects. I’ve talked to some women who had the same treatment as I did. Some were able to do a lot more activity during their treatment period than me. They worked harder jobs, took care of kids, cleaned their homes, and were generally more active. I began to wonder why.

No one reacts exactly the same way to medicine. Certain sinus medicines make me wired while Jeff gets sleepy on them. Another factor on these women was their health condition going in. They were at a much better weight than I was, most notably. They likely didn’t have some other issues I had prior to my diagnosis. While I have no scientific evidence on this, I think that your fitness going into treatment affects your ability to manage side effects.

My regret is that I wasn’t in better shape and health to handle the chemotherapy treatments. My doctor asked me to lose weight. I only lost about 15 pounds overall from the day I was diagnosed to the end of treatment, not nearly enough. Sadly, I still have the same issue of excessive weight.

Whew! I’m feeling very vulnerable right now. It’s hard to write about being fat when I know better. It was worth it to say that if we keep ourselves in better shape, we could better handle what life throws at us, whether its chemo, a heart condition, or an illness like COVID. I regretted my situation then, and I do now. I hope you take this to heart and work on your health and fitness as I will try, try again.

After reading this post, give yourself a hug and remember that you are an amazing person! We all have things to improve about ourselves. Remember to love yourself!

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 12: Powerless

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Powerless represents a feeling a lot of people have experienced in 2020. COVID-19 took hold, precautions were put in place, and we were told to stay at home. It changed nearly everyone’s lives, those with the disease, working in high risk jobs, and those who’ve sheltered in place. We’re still dealing with many of the changes to our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us feel powerless.

I felt powerless about developing cancer and all that came with it. I felt trapped in a defective body. I’d received the diagnosis and couldn’t change it, but now my whole life would change because of it.

I can’t say I couldn’t have made different choices. There are people who attempt to treat diseases naturally or refuse surgery or chemo for various reasons. I wanted to LIVE. I wanted to increase my chances of long-term survival, to watch my kids grow into their adult selves, and to someday (years from now, it seems) enjoy grandkids. I wanted to grow old with Jeff. He promises to be cantankerous and needs me to put him in his place. I felt the best way for me to live and love and experience all this, I had no choice but to take the doctors’ advice.

When someone puts you to sleep, then under the knife, you feel powerless about the outcome. Fortunately, my lumpectomy went very well. If you want to know a feeling of powerlessness, sit in a chair and let someone inject you with chemotherapy drugs! I talked about the fear that chemo created. I didn’t know how I would feel during treatment or how sick I would get from the side effects. I didn’t know what would happen to me long term or if I’d get back to normal. I had no power over the effects of the drugs.

During treatment, I mostly did well. Found a formula for sleeping through most of it. A couple days after chemo, the sickness set in, and I’d lay in bed. I got to know the meaning of the phrase “death warmed over.” It didn’t last forever. I’d have bad and good days. I didn’t have power over which days were which.

Maybe I wasn’t completely powerless. I did make those decisions for surgery and treatment. I had nurtured a life that let me be surrounded by love and support. I took my better days and did what I could with them, enjoying time with my family or with a friend. I worked part-time, writing online for a test prep company, through most of my treatment months. I had the power to keep my spirits up and to have hope for the future. I had the power to choose as much living as my body would allow.

When you feel powerless, think of what you can control. Most often, it’s your outlook and approach to life. I’ve seen many women with cancer leading amazing lives while in treatment, during a series of surgeries, and after they’ve overcome the disease. I’ve even had some “careful” fun times during the pandemic, spending more time than ever with my sons who I know won’t live at home for much longer. During tough times, tap into a powerful, positive outlook and live more happily.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 11: Solitude

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Alone with the disease
Many hours lying down by myself
Not really wanting company
My steadfast companion, my sweet dog, on my bed
So much support but still I feel alone
So many people suffering like me but still feel it
In my Solitude

Dealing with the sickness
That comes with the treatment
Trying to hold my head up
Trying to keep it together
Losing chunks of time to sleep
Mentally numb, physically drained
In my Solitude

Wondering “Why me” as many do
Wondering why God let this happen
Thinking that I’ve been abandoned
Yet still praying, holding onto faith
Considering what my future holds
What my body will be like in time
In my Solitude

I don’t want to feel alone
When better moments come, I try
I let people in to share a laugh
l talk and act like nothing’s wrong
I live my life as best I can
Until, once again, I draw myself in, needing to be
In my Solitude

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks

Day 9: Compassion

Standard

I don’t know where I’d rate on a scale for compassion. Sometimes, I’m so caught up in my own world and family that I don’t see other peoples’ hurt. I wish I did, and I’m working on it. As I went through my cancer battle and appreciated everyone’s kindness, I was exposed to more people in pain than ever before. I made a leap in compassion through my breast cancer journey.

Being compassionate first takes recognition of another person’s suffering. Beyond awareness, you should attempt to understand it at least at a basic level. You can feel compassion and then you can act compassionately, the full expression of the emotion.

Pain can be caused by many events, characteristics, and conditions in life. Having a horrible disease is just one of them, but it’s my frame of reference. During my journey, I met quite a few people, mostly women, with cancer. Some I met in the treatment room and many through a nonprofit organization, Compassion That Compels. In addition to meeting people with cancer, I’d also found out about others I already knew that had experienced the disease.

Here’s a little story to show how my sense of recognition came awake. A year or so ago, Jeff and I stopped to eat at a local restaurant in a little town. We enjoy doing this. A mother and older teenage daughter came in and sat at the table next to us. You could do that in those days! The girl wore a headscarf like what I had worn. The unaware, old Denise would have seen someone with a headscarf or bald head and thought, why are they making that awful fashion statement? On that day, I recognized someone in treatment.

Recognition of suffering is good, but not enough for compassion. You must try to understand and feel something for the person. Concerning the girl in the scarf, all I could think of was how terrible it was for her to go through cancer so young. The disease, treatments, hair loss, and whatever else she was experiencing. My heart hurt for her and her mother, who I’m sure shared in the pain.

Real compassion involves action. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture as it was with CTC when we delivered wonderful gifts and prayers to women in treatment. The restaurant scene was a small gesture moment. I decided to simply be friendly. Fortunately, Jeff was friendly that day, too (wink wink). We smiled and talked to our table neighbors, and the mother mentioned about her daughter’s cancer. I told her that I recognized the signs, and I talked to the girl about how I’d been through breast cancer and was doing well. I said positive things about her life ahead to try to cheer her heart.

I have more stories, such as talking to an older couple while she was getting treatment. He got called away, and she broke down, telling me that he had terminal cancer and wouldn’t live long. I sat for an extra time after my treatment to listen to her until he returned. It was 30 minutes of my life with a woman who grasped my hand and desperately needed it.

Any of us can practice compassion. Instead of judging someone, as is a bad habit of mine, consider what might be going on with them. Even if you’re going through the disease, you can develop compassion and show it to others. Look for moments to support someone else, to show a smile, talk with the person, or to help them in a big way. Compassion will lighten your heart and make you feel love in a new way.

#breastcancer #cancer #breastcancerawareness #breastcancersurvivor #cancersucks #cancersurvivor #chemotherapy #survivor #chemo #cancerfighter #breastcancerwarrior #cancerawareness #health #breastcancerfighter #cancerwarrior #breastcancersupport #pinkribbon #covid #pink #womenshealth #cancertreatment #breastcancercare #breastcancersucks