In June 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. Fortunately, this was considered early in terms of probable survival statistics, but not early enough to avoid chemotherapy, particularly as cancer was found in one of my lymph nodes. Following a lumpectomy, I received eight rounds of chemo administered every two weeks (4: Adriamycin/Cytoxin; 4: Taxol), followed up by radiation.
My chemo buddies and I liked to say that chemo was doable. “Yes, we can!” That is, until there were complications, and I certainly had them. Still, I managed to work in an office three days a week throughout treatment without missing much work. I had a flexible and understanding employer as well as many in my personal life who were supportive and caring, for which I am forever grateful.
Once treatment was finished in January 2011, I was thrilled to be done, only to realize that a new difficulty lay ahead. Like all of us who go through this process, I was left bald and anxious to look like me again. It took more than a year for my hair to return to what was normal for me. Far worse, however, was coping with overwhelming fatigue, chemo brain, and the general recovery from the brutal effects of chemo. It seemed people expected me to be fine since I’d completed treatment, but it takes a while to recover from regular infusions of poison. If something so strong can kill cancer cells, it can kill other things, too. Just saying.
And it’s depressing. You feel you’ve returned from a war zone, not that you were engaged in battle but your body was the ground on which that battle took place. Yet for those around you, it’s just another day. Not so for you. It’s like being caught in an alternate universe, some in-between place where you can’t quite plant your feet solidly on the ground. Some people bounce back relatively quickly; others need some time. I’ve made steady and huge progress. From outward appearances, I’m fine. But I’m not where I want to be. Some days, I feel well enough; other days, the fatigue or residual headaches interfere with life.
Treatment and recovery may also create a domino effect that spirals into other areas of life, causing those things to tumble into disarray or disintegration, such as finances, relationships, employment, etc. The result is an enormous amount of stress and struggle at a time when you need to concentrate on healing.
While going through treatment, I found a lot of resources and support. Not so during recovery. Not on the web or in real life. True, most of us just want to get on with life, as did I, but I soon found my struggle far from over and I needed to connect with others who could relate. I attempted to join a recovery support group. The two I found that didn’t occur during my work hours had a waiting list. I did meet some people who had gone through this process who shared that they were not 100% at this juncture, which served to encourage me that my experience was within the range of normal, but more importantly, that things would get better, even if not as before.
My goal for this blog is to share my experiences, honesty, candidly, authentically, and to provide a place where others know they’re not alone or crazy. Of if they are crazy, they’re not alone in their madness. I know it helps me that you’re here too.