My Wholehearted Journey from Chaos to Calm

It was all a blur, it felt like I had been given a role in a movie I never wanted to act in. I wanted the movie to end already, but it just never did. I never thought I would hear the words, “You have cancer” at 36. It turned out I was not as invincible as I had thought. 

The fear of the unknown at the time of my diagnosis was nerve-racking. I started imagining the worst possible scenarios before even knowing enough about my cancer. What would my husband do if I don’t make it? Would my youngest remember me if something were to happen to me? Did my kids have enough happy memories with me, enough to make sure they would remember me for the rest of their lives? 

After the dreaded phone call, my journey into a world I didn’t want to belong to had to start. I remember an hour-long conversation with the surgeon, but my mind froze at the word “mastectomy.” I was physically present, but mentally my mind was stuck. I could hear it all perfectly well, but I wasn’t listening, I wasn’t processing any of it. 

Most people think my journey ended the day I was wheeled out of the operating theatre and into the recovery room. For me, this was when my journey actually started. The day of my surgery was the day I finally realized this was actually happening. The day it all felt real. This was the day I would sacrifice my femininity to make sure I survive. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Was it easy? Most definitely not. 

It was the hardest, most excruciating experience ever. I was in a state of shock post-surgery. I actually could not look at myself in the mirror. I would put on loud music whenever I would have to look at myself in front of a mirror so no one would hear me crying. It wasn’t me. I had tubes under my skin that made me shiver every time I looked at them. I had drains sticking out of my body that made me worry about every movement I made. I was so swollen and bruised, I could not hug my kids for weeks. That in itself destroyed me, because I didn’t realize that after my mastectomy, I would not be able to cuddle them for a while. I would not be able to sleep next to them. I would not be able to carry them. Having your child ask you to hold them, and you not being able to, is absolutely heart breaking. 

It turned out that chemotherapy wasn’t beneficial in my case. Instead, I was going to be induced into a state of menopause. First, I had to go through a mastectomy. Now I had to go through menopause. To top it off, I have to take pills for ten years, pills with a whole list of side effects, one of which may be cancer.

Having a support system was and is everything. My husband has been my rock through it all. My kids have given me a reason to fight. My parents and my sisters have never left my side. My friends have sent prayers from all over the world. My surgeons & my oncologist & their entire teams have been wonderful. One of the best pieces of advice I would be able to give is to make sure you have doctors you trust blindly, yet you know they respect you enough as a person to allow you to ask a million questions and have no issues answering them to put your mind at ease. 

You need to have a reason to move forward. You need to have the will to go on. My scars are now a reminder of what I did to survive, they tell my story. The fear of recurrence will always be there, with every ache I get, I will wonder if it’s back. I just remind myself that I got through this once, and if I have to do it again, I believe I’ll come out even stronger.  — Sandy

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