So now it is 2 years 9 months and 25 days since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Boy what a rollercoster journey that has been. I know I bang on about it, but it is truly a life changing experience.
There is not a day that does not pass by without the thought of cancer entering my head. It can be triggered by having a shower and seeing the scars left by surgery and my inferior breasts. Wearing a top which shows the scar left by the portacath which I often catch sight of in the mirror. Taking Tamoxifen to prevent the return of the evil bastard. The blood tests, the scans. mammograms, and oncology appointments all of which send you into a rollercoaster of emotion, as you prepare yourself to be told it has returned. Stories in the news are read with interest, scanning for the symptoms they had, incase I have those. You might think that is obsessive but you stand here in my shoes and tell me what I should do.
I have had counselling to deal with the fear of the cancer returning. Which has helped, but it is very much a real fear that taps me on the shoulder at some point each day.
Then you have the other reminders a career in teaching I had to give up. There is no way in the world I could of returned to the classroom after treatment my body was broken and tired from the surgery, the chemo the radio and targeted therapies. My brain was muddled and foggy. This was a career I gave 26 years too and loved. Not to be in school helping children learn ,problem solve, develop, make the right choices and just talk to, broke me. Not to be working with, leading and supporting colleagues many of who were friends was hard.Not to be making a difference to families was a bitter pill to swallow. Missing the sound of child laughter, their jokes and stories. I struggle now to say I am a teacher because I don’t do that job anymore
Don’t misunderstand me, I love the job I do now as an SEN caseworker and I still get that injection of youth through my Brownie unit.
Then there is the toll it takes on you relationship. Your body is never the same after cancer .There is a fear of being touched, if you don’t like you then how can anyone else. This is possibly the hardest boulder to overcome. It affects the most intimate parts of your relationship. So now you are in a situation where it is affecting your husband too. This upsets me immensley and is like the part no one discusses with you or supports you with. Yes you can access counselling but to make those changes you have to accept the new you and that is something I struggle to do.
Then the surivour guilt. This is suffered by so many and often silently. It resurfaces when you have friends still going through treatment or a friend sadly dies due to this evil crippling disease returning. You can’t help but think why am I still here. You can also feel guilty for not living every moment of your life to the full. After all you were given a second chance.
Let’s not forget due to treatments and medication the other symptoms you suffer from the early menopause induced and all the joys that brings, diabetes ( side affect of Tamoxifen), lymphodema, fatigue, neuropathy and now I fear hearing loss too.
Hey it isn’t all doom and gloom. I need to remind myself that this journey taught me how strong I was and how I found the strength to battle. It showed me who really cared and loved me. It made me re-evaluate life. It made me want to get out there and experience things and do things. It brought me new friends through meeting fellow sufferers and new work colleagues. It gave me back my work life balance and the chance to explore hobbies. It has given me a big push to get fit. More importantly than all it gave me time with my family who I love dearly and that is the best gift of all.
I remember praying when diagnosed and I asked God to give me enough time to see Charlie through secondary school. He has fulfilled his part of the bargain and now I need to do mine.That for me is to promote breast cancer, offer support where I can, remind people to check their boobs and raise money for research where I can.I want no one to have to travel this journey.