For several weeks I have had an internal debate as to whether or not to broach this subject in my blog. It is personal, and for some, potentially uncomfortable. But the reality is that one in eight Real Women will deal with this in some way in their lifetime. And in the end, I decided the possible benefits of having an open conversation about it outweigh any potential embarrassment. I hope you agree.
Six weeks ago I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
I feel lucky and blessed.
No, I’m not being smugly sarcastic. And no, I am not a delusional and obnoxious Pollyanna.
I’m quite serious.
Of all of the multitude of emotions, thoughts, and feelings I’ve had as I’ve started this journey, the one that is most prominent each and every day is thankfulness.
- The Good Kind. To be specific, I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, or DCIS. In plain terms, it means all of the evilness was contained in one small area. Thanks to the medial professionals who are now a part of my life, I have learned to believe the oddly ironic phrase that “if you are going to have cancer, this is the good kind to have.” Caught early, it is fairly easily treated. Women don’t die from DCIS. If left untreated and ignored, it can become invasive, spread, and be a whole ‘nother story. But at this point, I got “the good kind.” Lucky.
- I Don’t Feel Sick. Ok, well, right after my diagnosis, I came down with the Flu. That wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t directly related, other than probably largely due to stress. Otherwise, I have felt good. My surgery went smoothly, and my recuperation was not lengthy or exceptionally difficult. Thanks to this being “the good kind”, I will have Radiation but no Chemo. Truthfully, my greatest fear was having to face Chemo. I’ve seen some of the dearest people in my life go through it, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of being that ill. The other day I had my first visit to the Cancer Center, and I saw many people who are fighting far more difficult battles than I. I saw women in wheelchairs who have lost their hair, looking frail but brave. I saw a man using a walker, pale and fragile. I saw hats and scarves and wigs on display for sale. I felt almost guilty that for whatever reason, I’m dodging that bigger bullet. Will I still be this perky along about week 4 of Radiation? Maybe not, but I will not be suffering as much as those who are fighting bigger fights. Thankful.
- First World Technology. I live in a modern world filled with unbelievable technology and outstandingly talented and knowledgeable medical professionals. I live in a country where these things are available to me, and although our healthcare system is marred, I have insurance to help me pay for very expensive treatments. I have a bright and healthy future because of a machine and a technician who took photos that enabled a skilled doctor to see tiny white dots that needed attention. Lucky.
- Support. The outpouring of love and support I have already received from those “in the know” has been truly and completely overwhelming. Family, BFF’s, even co-workers have completely blown me away by their positive words, caring thoughts, prayers and unconditional support. Blessed.
- Strength. Thanks to strong and wholesome genes, I have overall good health on my side. Sure, it takes some hard work to stay fit and eat right, but I have no other health concerns that could complicate this whole situation. I’m one of those people who, when having to fill out health forms, marks the “No” check box next to all of the potential issues I could currently have. Lucky.
- Extraordinary Caregivers. Absolutely every medical professional I have met (and whoo boy, there have been a lot of them) has been pleasant, caring, smart, kind, highly skilled….just plain extraordinary. The majority of them have been women, and they “get it”. They are comforting yet positive, undaunted in their conviction that everything will be fine. Truly special Real Women. Thankful.
- Ok to just Be. I’ve learned already the importance of slowing down and taking care of myself. This is not an easy lesson for us Real Women. I have to admit, however, that those few days after my surgery were actually rather liberating. There were absolutely no expectations of me at all, other than to rest and recuperate. That was my sole job, my only focus. And it is one that I will still need to carry with me in the weeks ahead. I’ve learned it is ok to ask for assistance, and to rely on others when necessary. It still isn’t something I’m comfortable doing, but I know it can be done. I can slow down, and the world won’t tilt. Good to know. Thankful.
- Perspective. Rather suddenly, I’m not quite so consumed by those extra few pounds I put on over the winter, or the new wrinkles I’m seeing crop up on my face. I’m quite sure it is only a matter of time before I begin complaining about them again, but right now I’m choosing to see these changes as signs of a life well lived. The spring weather seems particularly amazing to me – the breezes fresher, the colors brighter, the sun warmer. In reality, this may be more of a sign of an extremely long winter. But nevertheless, I’m appreciating absolutely every minute of it. Blessed.
- Action. Perhaps one of the things I’m most encouraged by is the fact that at least two R.W.’s in my life, after learning about my situation took it upon themselves to make appointments for check ups with their own doctors. Sure, visiting the doctor isn’t high on the fun list — especially when it is the doctor who asks you to “scootch down” or puts your mammory glands in a vice. Not to mention the visits can be expensive if you don’t have decent insurance, and we all live busy lives and fitting in one more thing can be a challenge. But when it comes down to it, taking the time for vitally important check ups is a small price to pay for health. Thankful.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I decided to celebrate my 200th blog post by sharing this personal topic. Because we only have this one body to live in during this lifetime. If I can convince just one person reading this to take a bit more care of yourself, to make sure you visit your doctor for regular check ups, then it was well-worth bearing my soul, or in this case, my boob.
It all comes down to one simple truth: each and every day that we can be healthy and take care of ourselves is another day to feel lucky, blessed and thankful.