Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cancerversary-Year 2

It has now been 2 years since I picked up the phone and was told that "unfortunately" my biopsy was positive for cancer. I can remember the paralyzing fear, the literally paralyzing fear that wouldn't let me dial the phone to call my mom, or the number of the breast surgeon that the anonymous radiologist on the phone had given me. I remember sitting on the couch screaming, asking why, texting friends, crying with my mom and Eric and Eric's family. It was so ugly. What was uglier was the sheer terror that the following morning brought, and every morning in the weeks after. Every night I'd fall into bed, so exhausted with emotion, fear, and uncertainty to even give another minute of thought to cancer, and then every morning with a fresh mind, it all returned.

Last year as the 1 year anniversary of my diagnosis approached, my mental state deteriorated. I had just gone back to work and was thrust back into "normal" life when everything was anything but normal. I sat in doctor's offices with stares from other drug reps and confused looks from doctors who thought I looked familiar but couldn't place me, and if they could, asked what happened to my long blonde hair. Consumed with the fear of cancer recurrence, I was in a constant state of anxiety and was constantly numbing myself with Ativan. On my one year cancerversary, I sat in the car in front of one of my favorite restaurants where we were going to celebrate Valentine's day, and had a complete breakdown. My husband expressed his frustration that I was unable to move on from cancer, I expressed that I was so much more fucked up now than the day I was diagnosed. Cancer had broken me.

The Monday after my 1 year cancerversary, I attended a support group for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. This was a meeting I'd attended regularly through treatment and I always gained comfort  and strength from being around women who understood and enjoyed sharing stories and commiserating. But at this meeting, I broke down and cried which was out of character for me to do in front of others. And it felt like a turning point.

With the anniversary behind me, things began to change. Spring came. With warmer weather, aches and pains that worried me so much began to subside. I was able to run outside again which was cathartic. My hair started to look more like a normal hair style. I became a Younique presenter and it was so enjoyable and took my mind off of cancer. Instead of spending my time reading horror stories on online cancer forums, I was promoting this makeup that I loved and making money in addition to working my pharmaceutical job. That was going better too and I felt back in the swing of things, although my heart was no longer in it. Then on April 30th, we had a mandatory conference call where they told us that a "significant" layoff was coming in the next few months and they were offering a "hand raising option" where you could volunteer to be laid off with a severance package. It took all of 3 seconds to know what I was going to do.

In June, I had my breast reconstruction where they swapped out the tissue expanders with silicone implants. I also got the call that they accepted my request for separation and as of the end of June, I was a stay-at-home mom. It was undoubtedly the best decision I could have made, as shortly after I was laid off, Eric started an assignment in Indiana and was gone for 7 weeks straight. Juggling a full time job and being a single mom would have been added stress that didn't fit into my new healthier lifestyle. Fall brought the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk that I was on the committee of, and it was such a pleasure to see a year of planning come together to raise $828,000. I was also asked to be the 2015 co-chair of the event and I'm honored to play an even bigger roll this year in helping raise money for the American Cancer Society and a cause that's so important to me.

I couldn't be happier to say that today, on my 2nd cancerversary, I am so much better off than I was last year and the year before. Mentally, I'm feeling more optimistic and hopeful. Physically, my body is stronger and I'm more fit than I've been in a long time. I am loving life and so thankful for the blessings I've received in the last year. Don't get me wrong, cancer still can make me cry in the shower like it did this morning, but the sadness doesn't last long.

Hopefully there won't be any reason to update this blog until my 3rd cancerversary. Until then....thank you for all of your prayers :-)

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