It’s hard to regain your footing after a life altering event. You slowly try to figure out what is normal and what got changed or destroyed. Kind of like cleaning up after a major storm.
The cancer hit like a sudden storm and left a lot of devastation. Physically there was a lot of damage. I lost my hair and my breasts. I gained weight from steroids I was on. I lost the physical fitness I had. I lost the energy I had. But I had to remind myself this is just temporary.
Mentally has been a lot harder to recover from. I had to get comfortable going out to stores etc and not having my hair (which is what hats are for!). I had to accept that I gained weight and am not the size I wanted. I had to realize I had to adjust the exercises I did dramatically to allow my body to recover from all the abuse it had been through.
I had to learn that I will live with fear. It gets a little better with time but there’s still a constant worry of recurrence. There’s the physical changes I have gone through mainly my long hair is gone. Some people don’t initially recognize me now.
There’s the return to work, a big step in a return to “normal” but one much harder than I anticipated. I lost my old job and had to adjust to a new one which took a long time for me to accept.
There’s the long road of breast reconstruction which has multiple steps and procedures when it goes well. And when it doesn’t go well as is the case with one side for me, there’s many more steps and procedures.
There’s the exhausting treatments. The time spent hooked up to a machine pumping you with meds while clearly being the youngest one in the infusion room wondering how this all happened.
There’s the funny bump or button I had in my chest, my port to receive infusions. Not only was it weird looking but it was annoying as I have young kids who would hit against it frequently.
But I am slowly picking up the pieces of the my post cancer life. I feel like I am slowly returning to a somewhat “normal” life if one exists.
I had my last immunotherapy treatment this week. My infusions are done. Fifteen months of chemo and immunotherapy are over. I only have to see my oncologist every three months now, not every three weeks.
My port was removed this week. Yes I have two scars from the placement but the button is gone and the scar will fade. I’m getting my body back.
It took awhile but the weight finally came off. I am close to what I was before I was pregnant with Bryce. The weight slowly came off after I was done the steroids with my second half of chemo and as I had more energy and was able to be more active again.
Tying in with the weight loss is the ability to do more exercises like I used to.I am still extremely limited with my upper body but I can do kettlebell carries with a very light kettlebell. I have found ways to do lower body only kickboxing and dance workouts. I can do a very limited amount of core exercises. I can finally do more than just barre and lower body hiit and Pilates workouts in addition to walking. My fitness is slowly coming back.
Mentally is slowly getting there too. I am appreciating my new job more and more and actually starting to like it. I am feeling slightly less anger and resentment towards my replacement though this hasn’t gone away.
I am feeling less awkward when I’m on campus or in the office. I’m involving myself more in groups I was a part of like AAWCC (American Association for Women in Community Colleges) and joined the DEI (Diversion, Equity and Inclusion) Committee. I signed up for some upcoming campus trainings. My energy and enthusiasm for the college I’ve been at for 14 years is returning.
My hair is back and growing kind of crazy now but that’s ok. I have hair on the top of my head and that’s a beautiful thing. I stopped worrying about how weird it looks and realizing that doesn’t matter. I volunteered in Shane’s class for the 100th day of school and came in to a craft with his class for his birthday. He’s just happy I am there and doesn’t care how crazy my hair is or what I look like.
The confidence I had is slowly coming back. I am working full time and managing five kids ages 8 and under and still going to many medical checkups (though there are far less than there used to be) and we are going out a lot as a family and life is good.
I am still filled with a lot of fear and worry and anger and resentment and emotion of all I have been through and overcome. I know the mental toll of all of this and the recent celebration of Bryce’s birthday has made me more tired than usual because it was so much. It was exhausting to worry day after day until Bryce arrived if he would be ok. It was so tiring to go through half my chemo while pregnant. It was so hard being limited so much during Bryce’s first year. But that’s all ok. He’s healthy and happy and lights up my life every day along with my four other kids.
My world was turned completely upside down in November 2021 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’m still trying to pick up the pieces from being hit with this terrible disease. It’s been a process and it’s one that you never fully recover from but I’m getting close to “normal” and feeling like I’m “cancer free.”
The storm hit me hard and I’ve had a lot to clean up. I lost a lot physically and the toll this all took on me mentally was far greater than I thought it would be. But I’ve been recovering from this storm and working towards restoring as much as I can. I know there isn’t really such a thing as “normal” after cancer but I’m going to work to get as close as I can.
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