When I first heard I had breast cancer my thought was (which I shared out loud) “cut them off and I’ll just go home and forget you said that”. My doctor just looked at me and said “its way too soon to go there”.
What surprised me most:
- I didn’t feel like a cancer patient – what does that even feel like? I am not sure what I expected but I always thought somehow you changed as soon as you heard the word and I guess I did. Just not like what I thought. Stunned is what I felt – at least that is the best word I can find.
- I am much stronger than I thought – I never thought I would get cancer because I couldn’t be strong enough. But you just go into this mode – at least I did. First it was what do I need to do? You get test after test and doctor visit after doctor visit. Then you just keep going – the cliché fits – one day at a time – one appointment at a time – one treatment at a time.
- How many types of Breast Cancer there are – I was diagnosed stage 2 triple negative which means that my cancer was not caused by the progesterone receptor, estrogen receptor or the HR hormone receptor. You can read more on this – the only source I use for info on the web is the Mayo Clinic (this came from my oncologist – he explained that their information is always up to date and many other sites are not).
- Being bald wasn’t as bad as I thought – it actually helped me. Once you lose your hair everyone knows something is wrong. I didn’t have to fake having more energy that I did, I didn’t have to tell everyone I was sick. It has also saved me LOTS of time getting ready (especially since I didn’t have the energy to do much) – just pull on a head cover and boom – ready to go.
- Chemo – how I love and hate you. Chemo killed my cancer but it also attacks everything else. I am lucky with how well it did with me but there are definitely side effects.
- How much I worried about everyone else – I immediately started planning and thinking about if I died. It was sad for my husband but I couldn’t help it. The news changes your perspective and I just wanted everyone to be ok if I wasn’t going to be. Then throughout the whole process – you realized how much your illness impacts everyone around you. I worry most about my mom because I can’t imagine watching your child going through this – so very scary for her. Early in the process, she took me to get my Pet Scan and was weird during the visit. I knew it was emotional for her. The next time I saw her she apologized and I was shocked. I just said, “mom, I would be more worried if you weren’t upset – it’s ok to be upset and you do NOT have to apologize – I am your daughter and this has to be hell for you”. Since then, I just encouraged everyone to talk about how they feel.
- Side effects – short term: The side effects were totally different than what I thought and I hate them! I am a positive person and overall have stayed positive but I just had no idea how hard it would be. But there are reprieves in between treatments that helped. Getting a little energy back and interacting with people helped so much.
- Side effects – long term: I have some lung issues that are dragging on and may be permanent – from chemo. Medicine is helping so that is positive – just not sure how long it will last. I have also heard from friends that weird things continue to come up after “treatment” ends – hoping those are not so bad but will be better than the alternative. I will talk about these things and reach out – I am grateful for the support I have.
- Its ok to be sad, negative, pissed off —- whatever you feel is ok —- I just worked hard at not staying there. Hugging my husband, facetiming a loved one, spending time with a kid, petting my dog, going to feed the ducks at a nearby pond with my hubby, just sitting in the same room with family, encouragement from others – these are the things that kept me sane.
- Reach out – talk to other people. Blogs and support sites helped me but I also started meeting women everywhere who were going through the same thing or had gone through it. Then I had a friend get diagnosed about a month after me. We have been able to be very supportive to each other – we do not live close but have checked on each other via social media, texts and calls. She has been such a source of support and it has helped me to help her.
- If you don’t love your doctors get new ones. My doctors and their staff have been absolutely wonderful.
- Aveeno soap and lotion helped my skin not be so bad – I washed everything with it: hair, skin, hands. I took a small bottle to work because the soap in the restrooms was very harsh.
- Taste – everything tasked like lizard butt to me during chemo – dry scratching rancid. I found a few things that tasted ok and stuck with them: peanut butter and honey on toast, fresh vegetables, apples, applesauce, slurpees. I tried other things – fatty things just tasted awful and left an oily feeling in my mouth.
- Hair loss – I lost it all! Even nose hair. I made sure I had Kleenex with me all the time because my nose would just run! A friend warned me about this so I was prepared.
- Poop – the chemo made everything slow down including poop. I had to drink what I call “poop juice” – the stuff that cleans you out so I wouldn’t get impacted.