On November 14, 2001, I woke up from surgery and heard the confirmation that I did indeed have breast cancer. The memory is vivid and so are the thoughts that ensued. Cancer? I’m 28! I’m a single mom! My child is 3 years old! I can’t die! It was a mix of disbelief and panic. How could this happen?
I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder the hows and the whys of the situation. I had to make some decisions. I was told my cancer was stage IIA. The tumor was 2.5 centimeters (anything over 2.0 is automatically stage II) but there was no evidence of cancer in the lymph nodes that were removed and dissected. Because of my young age, it was recommended that I undergo chemotherapy to “clean up” any rogue cancer cells and then radiation if I chose to keep the breast or a mastectomy if I wanted to forego the radiation. I began chemotherapy before the end of the month and was bald by Christmas. It’s amazing how quickly it all happened. I had only found the lump (by accident) on November 2nd.
Anyway, during my chemotherapy, I decided that I was going to do anything and everything to stay alive. I wanted to raise my son. And, if for some reason I couldn’t stay to watch him grow up, it would not be because I hadn’t done absolutely everything I could. I think losing a parent is hard, no matter what your age. But, I certainly didn’t want my premature death to scar him for life. I set my goal as his high school graduation. 15 years. Practically a lifetime for a cancer patient. I had my conversation with God and asked that he give me those years. I wouldn’t get greedy, I wouldn’t ask for more. Just get me to that magical day in 2016 and I will die a happy woman.
After the 5 year mark, I started to relax a bit. The doctors said that most recurrences happen in the first 5 years. I was also told that if I made it 10 years, I could say I beat it. So, November 2011 was the 10 year mark! I celebrated big and let out a huge sigh of relief. That relief lasted all of 10 weeks. In March 2012, re-diagnosis. Stage IV. No cure. Average survival 3-5 years. It was at this point I began to seriously doubt whether or not I would get to that high school graduation.
However, on May 18th………….IT HAPPENED!!!! I saw my son walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma. Talk about a sigh of relief. Not to mention a world of emotions……pride, joy, sadness, love, gratefulness. It was an amazing moment and I truly could not be more thankful that I actually got to see it. Although a big milestone for Nick, I think an enormous milestone for me. Publicly, it was all about Nick, privately, I celebrated MY accomplishment.
So, now what? 19 days from now, Nick will turn 18. We will be in Puerto Rico to celebrate. Can I say I officially “raised” him? I met my goal, reached my milestone. Can I die? Yeah, I guess. But here’s the thing……I don’t want too. I want more. More years, more life. I guess it’s inevitable that it’s never going to be enough. Do I dare ask for more? Am I tempting fate? Am I being greedy? These are the questions that I contemplate. I am also contemplating setting a new goal. I don’t know what it should be. Nick’s college graduation maybe? My nephew’s high school graduation in 6 years? Or, something else?
I can’t project myself too far into the future. I think I know better than to go as far as a wedding or perhaps a grandchild, although those aren’t impossible, they are unlikely. My doctor says I need to set a new goal, but I never really thought about what I would do after I made it to graduation day. Maybe I don’t set any specific goal. Maybe, I take my own advice and live each day as it comes, not worrying about the future. I guess I should be thankful for the opportunity to look into the future. I have to say, in 2012, even buying green bananas caused me to pause.
Anyhow, I’m open to suggestions. Any advice?
A quick health update: Cycle 3 of Ibrance starts tomorrow, providing my blood counts are good. Cycle 1 left me neutropenic…….meaning my white cell count was very low which leaves me open to infection. I did not get sick however. Cycle 2, blood counts were low but not as low as cycle 1. The hope is that my body will adjust to the medication and my white cell counts will not drop as drastically as they did in cycle 1. Otherwise, it could be a very long and miserable winter full of colds, flus, and who knows what else. I still get the faslodex shots once a month. The shots don’t hurt while getting them, but the injection sites are EXTREMELY sore for several days afterward. They are literally a “pain in the butt!” Next scan is probably going to be in September.
In 9 days I’m off to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean! Maybe some time away will give me some perspective. Let’s hope I come home with perspective and NOT the zika virus! 😉