Breast cancer treatment revealed courage I never knew I had
Before I started breast cancer treatment at age 35, I had all sorts of ideas about how difficult my life was about to get. In a way, I was right. Cancer brought so many challenges, but to my surprise, it also unveiled a courageous side of me that I never knew I had.
I had my initial consultation at MD Anderson in The Woodlands in May 2015. That day, I found out that I’d lose my hair, and depending on my decision, my breasts, too. At the time, I dreaded even the thought of dealing with those very visible side effects.
Hair loss during my breast cancer treatment
Two months into my chemotherapy regimen, I started to notice the hair loss. At first, it was hard to accept it was actually happening. After I woke up one day and found my pillow covered with hair, I called my mother, who’s a beautician, and asked her to bring home her clippers so that she could cut off my hair. When I arrived at my parents’ house that evening, she my and dad greeted me with shaved heads. I was so overwhelmed by their support that I decided to embrace my baldness, too.
Coping with my mastectomy
Then in November 2015, I underwent a mastectomy of my left breast. My breast surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth FitzSullivan, wrote me a prosthesis prescription so that I didn’t have to walk around with one breast until my breast reconstruction surgery. I went shopping for a prosthesis, but everything was out of my price range. At that moment, I decided not to purchase a prosthesis and to make peace with my situation.
I received radiation therapy in January 2016, and after giving my skin time to heal from treatment, I had my second mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in August 2016. I managed living without a left breast by reminding myself of a more important reality: my cancer was gone. I’d sometimes put a sock in my bra while I was out in public, but when I didn’t, I tried to make light of the matter before anyone noticed or started to feel uncomfortable.
Find ways to ease your cancer challenges
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I never imagined I’d ever openly embrace my bald head and missing breast. I’m so thankful that I did because doing so helped me realize I was so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, and it fueled my determination to fight through other emotional and financial challenges that I encountered along the way.
I also found it beneficial to join a support group because it was a great resource for information, not just emotional support. Many professionals came to talk to our group about coping with cancer-related issues and side effects, and we survivors exchanged information about restaurants, nail salons and other businesses in our community that cater to cancer patients.
What you tell yourself matters
There’s no denying that cancer sucks, but how you choose to deal with the challenges that arise during treatment can definitely improve your overall experience. I believe that 90% of the cancer journey is mental and the other 10% is physical.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your cancer journey: fill your atmosphere with good vibes, positive people and inspirational reading materials so you can push through the difficult moments with grace. You’re capable of more than you think you are. Just face your cancer one day at a time, and no matter how awful you feel, don’t give up.