A GRATEFUL FIVE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR – PART 2

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 INTRODUCTION

I designated October as the month to read everything MY 70-year-old brain could absorb on Breast CancerAlso, the goal was to write a four-part series about MY five-year journey as a Survivor.   

Relying on Google searches, I visited Breast Cancer:

  • Organizations
  • Personal Blogs
  • Support Groups Online
  • Support Groups for Family
  • Forums and Discussion Groups

But, before I could finish Part 2 of the series, a bout of bronchitis entered MY space and gained control.  For almost three weeks, I was totally out of commission.   But thanks to an excellent primary care physician, nebulizer inhalations, antibiotics, and cough medicine; I am bronchitis-free, feeling great, and ready to complete what I started.

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PART 2 – SURVIVING AND OVERCOMING BREAST CANCER

In the beginning of my Breast Cancer journey, I was frustrated, depressed, anxious, fearful and just plain angry.

Without warning, this “unwelcome” and “unfamiliar” condition, Breast Cancer, invaded MY body and changed MY life.  There were so many unanswered questions about life expectancy, diagnosis, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Did I really want answers?  No, denial and rejection of any topic related to Breast Cancer served as MY safety net I chose to make Assumptions rather than face Reality.

Assumptions:

  • MY Five Year Survival Rate for Stage 1 Breast Cancer was 97%.
  • Stage 1 Breast Cancer was serious but not life threatening. 
  • After five years, Breast Cancer was no longer a risk.

Sadly, for more than five years, I relied on these Assumptions.

But I was left with no choice but to face Reality as I prepared to write this four-part series on Breast Cancer.  After reading a number of blogs written by Breast Cancer survivors and caregivers as well as visiting different Breast Cancer organization websites, I confronted —

Reality

  • American Cancer SocietyThe five year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live after their cancer is found.  Of course, many people live much longer than five years.”
  • Oncology Practice, Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer:  A Global Patient Survey – “Worldwide, one-third of patients who present with early-stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic disease.”

Now, I must face the Reality that MY

  • 98% five-year survival rate has ended; and
  • despite an early diagnosis of Stage 1 Breast Cancer, I may be among the one-third who develops metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer.

As I continue down the path of this Breast Cancer journey, I will strive to improve the quality of MY life, on a daily basis, through:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Pacing
  • Distractions
  • Sleep Health
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Massage Therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Spiritual Growth

I plan to put forth an extra effort to remain optimistic and stay positive in preparing to write Part 3 of this series on metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer.    It’s a topic that I fear but I no longer will rely on Assumptions to avoid Reality.

Expressing Gratitude for the positive changes in my life after Breast Cancer.  Everything happens in accordance with God’s Plan.  

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Also, Appreciation and Thanks to Amanda, Living in Another Language, for creating the new blog design.

Weekly Wishes #7

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Wish is a “desire or hope for something to happen” (Merriam-Webster.com).  I write about the failure to fulfill past Wishes because I choose to hold ME accountable for MY failures.  Especially, when they are under MY control.

Unfulfilled Wishes Weeks #3, 4 and 6

Since I failed to complete the Wishes below, I added them to MY Wishes for Week #7:

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 Learning to use the Digital Camera is the only remaining Wish from Week #3 and #4 that remains unfilled.  However, it is a work-in-progress; this week, I viewed a number of instructional You Tube videos and reviewed the manual.

I failed to Prepare a Healthy Dessert as Wished for in Week #6.  Devoted quite a bit of time looking at a number of recipes to find just the right one; finally, I settled on a Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe found in one of my cookbooks,  “Fantastic Food with Splenda,” by Marlene Koch.

Things “outside-of-my-comfort zone”, I will push to the bottom of MY “mental to do list.”  This is the case with Desserts whether healthy or not, I can recall only a few successes; and, the last camera I used was a Kodak Instamatic in the 1970s.   Yes, I am on a mission to overcome these challenges.   Facing them week after week may open ME up to bringing  the “unknown” and “uncomfortable” into my “comfort zone.”

 Fulfilled Wishes Week #6

This past week was busy.  Despite, the number of things on MY “to do list” and the “scheduled appointments”; I completed the following Wishes:

  • Viewed instructional YouTube Videos on Canon Digital Camera;
  • Created a Calendar of Activities:  Breast Cancer Awareness;
  • Posted “A Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor; and
  • Visited and commented on Six Breast Cancer Blogs

I opened MY eyes, looked and learned so much from the Six Breast Cancer Blogs, I visited this week:

  • Misifusa’s  Blog“Life is about the now, not the past, not the future.”  I am inspired, motivated, and uplifted after reading her posts.
  • I Hate Breast CancerI had just graduated from high school and seen my mom die from metastatic breast cancer.  Now I have it.  But this isn’t about me – it’s about making a difference for other people.”  Reading this blog peaked my interest to learn more about metastatic breast cancer. 
  • Telling Knots  “Empty Promises:  If we’re not aware of metastatic breast cancer, we’re not aware….About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis.”   Living as a five-year breast cancer survivor unaware of these facts until I started to explore the cancer blogs
  • Rethink Breast Cancer –   Young women get cancer too – Their concerns are unique.  Their needs are distinct and their survival rates are lower than those of older woman.”  I plan to share the link to this blog with my young survivor friends.  This advocacy and support blog as well as the listing of over 30 books recommended by young breast cancer survivors may be helpful.
  • The Perks of Having Cancer “Being a survivor is not all about being cancer free….it is about attitude.”  This blogger and her blogger friend have joined together and published a book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It.”  Ordered the book from Amazon.com; and, I look forward to reading about the “perks” and “tips.”.
  • ChemobrainIn The Fog “I was the person with an organized spice cabinetToday, I may not bring my mail in for three days.  Might not open it for another three.”  At this blogger’s suggestion, Signed up to with the Army of Women, I want to be a part of their “mission to move beyond a cure to find a way to prevent breast cancer.”

I am Grateful to God that “MY eyes were opened” to review and comment on the Six Breast Cancer Blogs.   The lack of knowledge about Breast Cancer is a “self inflicted wound” that could well affect the quality of MY life; and, I choose to become a knowledgeable and informed Breast Cancer Survivor.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Weekly Wishes #7

In addition to the two Unfulfilled Wishes; I Wish to:

October is dedicated to increasing MY awareness of Breast Cancer and sharing MY five-year journey as a Breast Cancer Survivor.  Every day, I will express Gratitude to God for His Gift of Life.

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A Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor

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First in a Series of Four Posts

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  And, I am a Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor choosing to share my journey by:  (1) stepping outside of my comfort zone; (2) moving beyond the “mere act” of wearing pink; and (3) writing this blog series.

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First and foremost, I express gratitude to God for the Gift of Life since my Breast Cancer diagnosis in February 2008.

SEEKING ANSWERS

In the early stages of my journey, frustration, anger, fear, and depression prevented me from expressing gratitude and appreciation to God or anyone else.  Instead, I was seeking answers —

  • HOW?             I had a clean mammogram seven months ago.
  • WHY?             There is no history of breast cancer in my family.
  • WHAT?          Is my survival rate?

TREATMENT

While I never received a clear medical answer to the HOW and WHY; my five-year survival rate is 97% based on the success of the following treatments:

  • Lumpectomy (Left Breast) – removal of the cancer and some of the normal breast tissue around it.  (Medline Plus)
  • Chemotherapy – IV Injection, eights hours one day per week, for 12 weeks
  • Radiation – Five days per week for eight weeks.

Prior to the Lumpectomy procedure, they warned me about the possible pronounced and disfiguring breast asymmetry.  For me, this was not an issue.  At the time of diagnosis, I was 66-years-old, married to Hubby for more than 48 years, and knew HE would continue to love ME as well as MY lumpy and disfigured left breast.   The size difference between my breasts never concerned me.   If I had been younger, it might have been different

Beyond the five daily treatments, irritating skin burns, and feeling worn out; there were no significant problems with Radiation therapy.

I faced several challenges during the Chemotherapy phase.

  • Challenge #1 – After working for almost two years coordinating a Family Reunion scheduled to take place in our city, I could not attend.  Two days earlier, based on lab findings, the Oncologist placed me on home quarantine; and I was told to continuously wear a surgical mask.  Not because I was dangerous to “others,” but “others” were dangerous to ME.   Feeling miserable and alone with over 200 family members arriving for a full weekend of fun and activities, Hubby and the Middle-Aged Kids allowed those who were closest to visit me at home for a short time.  No hugging, no touching, no bodily contact and they were only allowed to stand outside of my bedroom door.   Not sure if my Oncologist would have approved.  But, in this case the benefits outweighed the risk – at least I thought so.
  • Challenge #2 – I did not complete the full 12 weeks of therapy as ordered.    In Week #7 the Oncologist cancelled my chemo; after, I reported unusual sensations in my feet and toes.  The Oncologist said this was a side effect of one of the chemo drugs.   I was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Pain).  I knew there were side effects.  But, the benefits of the chemo drugs outweighed the risks.  So, I now must live with another chronic condition for which there is no known cure. 
  • Challenge #3I was depressed.  It was difficult to watch my hair fall out braid-by-braid, a little more everyday, and, finally total baldness.  Eventually, I was able to overcome the depression by repeating over and over  the proverb, “This too will pass.

Ever Grateful to God

for the

Gift of Life

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