Life without Parole

I can still remember – vividly – standing in a small room with my partner, surrounded by images of my ultrasounds and mammograms.  It was almost futuristic, with computers and screens covering every part of the darkened room.  I remember looking at those screens and seeing multiple tumors and spots – I was stunned and absolutely terrified. The Radiologist said, “5 years ago, this could have been a death sentence.”  Whoa, what?!  I wanted to scream.  He went on to explain that there had been many advances in the treatment of breast cancer recently and I had a good shot at being ok. Well, after hearing “death sentence”, pretty much everything else he said went in one ear and out the other at warp speed. Thankfully, a year later, my treatment was successful and I was granted a pardon.  My death sentence was commuted to Life, albeit, Life without Parole.  I say that because I will always be somewhat of a prisoner.  I’m still within that crucial 5 year timeframe when the chances of a recurrence are greatest, and, I won’t lie, I think about it every day.  Even though I try to keep a positive attitude and not let the fear rule me, I will be fearful of a recurrence for the rest of my life.  But, I’ve learned that a little fear can actually be a good thing.  It can be a motivator.  Whenever I start to get complacent about exercising, eating healthy, or just taking good care of myself, I think of that day in the dark room and my fear whispers to me, “never forget.”  My fear gets me to the gym and it gets me to take my meds.  It gets me to my follow up appointments and to eat things like maca root and chia seeds.  I’m trying to make fear my new friend.  So, although I may never fully escape my sentence of Life without Parole, I’ve decided to accept that and really focus on the Life part. Because, that’s what we all should really be afraid of – missing out on making the most of Life and the second chances we are given. That, my friends, would be the real death sentence.

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Pink Butterflies

Happy 2015 to all!  I started this year with my 6 month visit to my Oncologist yesterday. I love Dr. Tan-Chiu, but I always have mixed feelings when I go there.  Even the smell of the medical building where her office is located can bring back a flood of memories from my early diagnosis and days of chemo.  I feel a twinge of fear, a rush of gratefulness, a sense of disbelief (still!)that I even had breast cancer, and all sorts of other bittersweet feelings and memories.  When I walked in, I saw my surgeon, who was there seeing other ladies prior to their surgery.  The women were in the waiting room, sitting nervously with their mammogram films in the big x-ray folders on their laps.  Some alone, some with their significant others, all about to undergo a life-altering experience.  I felt some butterflies as I thought, “that could be me again…”  I think of the other women that I’ve met there and especially the ones I spent hours with in the chemo room.  Some of them I run into during my visits, and others I never see again.  I like to think that I never see them anymore because they are healthy and cancer-free and try not to think of the alternative.  It’s a bit surreal when I look at my surgeon and think, “that’s the guy who chopped off my breast” – then, I look at my Oncologist and think, “that’s the woman who saved my life.”  Pretty heavy stuff.  I’m a 3 year survivor now, and the fear is always in the back of my mind that I’ll have a recurrence.  For some reason, I was really nervous about it yesterday, but only when I got into the waiting room.  Now, I just have to wait for the bloodwork to come back and hope I get the phone call saying my tumor markers are fine and all is well. Until then, my butterflies and I will try our best to stay positive and stay healthy, one day at a time.

This may squeeze a little…..

Well, it is that time of the year for me again – the annual mammogram and ultrasound.  Luckily, I only have one good “ta ta” to test, so it’s not very time consuming.  But, time isn’t the issue. The issue is the little pang of terror that I get when I’m letting complete strangers do a very thorough check of my most private lady parts (what I have left, that is) and I try to forget about the times when the results came back disastrous.  I pray when I’m putting on the flimsy, pink gown  – with the opening in the front – that all will be well and that I’m Cancer free for another day.  I pray when they’re squeezing me and pulling my body this way and that to fit into the mammogram machine that it will be over soon. I pray when I’m laying on the table having an ultrasound and try to forget that I’m half naked in front of a total stranger.  And while I’m at it, I pray for all the other men, women and children, who are also hoping and praying that their tests come back clear.  I’ll keep you posted on the results and ask you humbly that if you pray, you’ll say a little prayer for me today. 

Be well and be blessed.

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