By Debbie Abide
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not like being told you have a virus or an infection. It’s something you have to wrap your mind around…like it or not. Since losing our youngest son almost four years ago, my husband and I found that we had strength that we could never have imagined. We had shared with each other then that if we could live through that experience, absolutely nothing else could take us down. So, when we were told that I had breast cancer, our initial reaction was okay what do we do now? That was the easy part, at least for me. My mind accepted what was happening to my body before my body was able to comprehend what was about to take place.
My journey began with chemotherapy…the most dreaded treatment plan for anyone who has cancer. Like most newly diagnosed cancer patients, I immediately turned to the Internet. Not the best idea. I read so many horror stories written by people just like me that I ended up sobbing the first night after I was told the news. My husband and son agreed that I should put down my laptop and walk away. And that’s exactly what I did. But this is my story and how I coped. No two patients are alike, just like no two bodies are alike. Everyone handles things differently. I just decided that I would take this process one day at a time, and one treatment at a time.
Honestly, chemo was not that bad for me. Yes, I lost my hair… and that was definitely the worst part, but I was blessed to have an amazing caregiver, my husband and best friend, who stayed by my side through it all. Having someone to talk to and to laugh with (humor is okay), whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone else who is going through a similar experience, can be a great source of support.
The next step was surgery. My “choice” was a bilateral mastectomy. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around having only one breast. Even though it wouldn’t be forever, my surgeon explained that my reconstruction would be delayed, because I would also need radiation. That meant I would have no breasts at all for at least a year or more. Once again my mind was at work, but my body was having a hard time keeping up. Healing can be a slow process. I found that keeping up my regular exercise routine (I actually felt more athletic) was the best medicine for me. It kept me strong both mentally and physically.
After a few months of healing from my surgery, I began the grueling daily routine of radiation – 33 treatments in 47 days. Then the waiting began…and waiting and more waiting. Almost a year later my journey still continues. Finally, I’ve reached the reconstruction phase of the process and I’m starting to see the light at the end of this long, nearly two-year tunnel. Even though my body doesn’t look the way it once did (whose does when you’re over 50 anyway?), I’m starting to look ahead, past breast cancer.
There are no guarantees for any of us, but God promises to give us strength and hope and a future…a future beyond this world that is free of death and mourning, crying and pain…and it will certainly be free of cancer.