Last October, my husband’s aunt and my friend, Cheryl, (who, for the rest of the year gives us her great craft ideas) told us her story about what life was like after being told she had breast cancer, and was in the process of going through chemotherapy. This October, she comes back to us with an update. Luckily, it’s a happy one as she is doing well. However, life still has its tough moments, as recovering from chemotherapy is a long process. Read on to see what the days are like for Cheryl since treatment ended. . .
Cancer is a word we have all become very familiar with. Most of us know someone who has been diagnosed and some of us have had cancer ourselves. I was diagnosed with breast cancer May 28, 2010 at age 42. I went through very aggressive surgeries and treatment to get rid of the cancer and hopefully keep me cancer free for the rest of my life.
So here I am, a year later, cancer free. The past year and a half has brought so many highs and lows for me and my family. The year of treatment was spent just getting by, taking one day at a time. I could never look too far ahead or it would be too overwhelming. But then, it was all over. At first, I felt total relief but then I felt like there was a cloud hanging over my head. I was in a lot of pain, I was trying to get used to my new body with no breasts or ovaries and I was trying to put my family back together that fell to the waste side while I was in treatment. I realized one morning that I would tackle post cancer the same as I did cancer–one day at a time. I realized I was living a new life , so it would take some time to feel “normal” again.
The first thing I tackled was finding a prosthetic [breasts] that worked for me. The first one I got was too heavy, then I tried going without anything (embracing being flat chested) but I was too self conscience. If someone said they liked my shirt I was sure they were really thinking “OMG she has no boobs!” So then I had the idea to wear a type of training bra. They have a small amount of padding so it looks like I have small boobs. (And the great part is you can get 2 for $10 at Target!)
So you can get a glimpse what I was dealing with, I have to share a funny swim story with you. My family and I were on vacation and it was the first time I wore my swimsuit with the prosthetic breasts. The swimsuit was made specifically for the prosthetic. All was going well and my kids wanted me to race them in the pool. We dove in raced to the other side. I stood up and my swimsuit had flipped over and my chest was totally exposed! My husband said, “Sweets, you need to make an adjustment.” Oh, the joys of prosthetics’.
The next thing I needed to concentrate on was my family. My kids were both in need of attention. Their emotional bucket was empty and I could not fill it up. It is hard to keep your kids’ buckets filled when your own bucket is so empty. First thing was we planned more family time together around the house. We also took lots of camping trips over the summer. These activities started to fill the bucket a bit, but I still felt it was draining as fast as I could fill it. So, I decided to dedicate 30 minutes each day for each child to do whatever they wanted. We could do a craft, look at books, play outside, what ever they wanted. It was a miracle cure. My kids stopped fighting as much, there were not tears every night, and we were starting to feel more like a family again. I still spend the special time with them both, but we have spread it out to once or twice a week.
I wish my kids did not have to have a mom with cancer, but since they did, I am hopeful that it has made them more compassionate, resilient and caring individuals. I hope they can look back at this experience and know that it was scary but they were able to handle it and we all came through the other side as a stronger, more loving family.
The last thing I needed to deal with was the pain. I had so much joint pain. Every joint hurt from my finger tips to my toes. There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. My doctor did not have a lot of advice except to control it with pain medicine and anti-inflammatory medication. Taking pain meds was not an option for me as I really didn’t want to be taking so much medicine. So, I turned to an herbalist. After meeting with him he put me on a food program with no sugar, no dairy and no grain. I can have vegetables, meat, nuts, eggs and beans (that have to be cooked a certain way), and butter (I love butter!). Within four days of this program my pain level went from a 7 to a 3! I started to feel better then I ever had before. My energy went up, my pain was almost gone and the cloud that had been hanging around slowly started to drift away. It is hard to always have my meals planned out to keep up with the cooking, but I am committed to eating this way so I can be pain free and enjoy my life.
Breast cancer awareness month is here. The pink ribbons’ are every where you look. I think what is important to remember with breast cancer is, yes we have come a long way with research. And yes, more people are survivors of breast cancer then ever before, but going through the hell of treatment and what it does to the patient and their family is so hard, much harder then it looks. So we can dress up breast cancer in pink and put a nice ribbon on it, but it is still cancer and it still sucks!
What I hope breast cancer awareness does do is makes more women get a mammogram every year and do monthly self exams. I found my lump during a self exam. Had I not found it my story would have a very different ending. So celebrate being a woman in October, get healthy and make your mammogram appointment.
Cheryl started a blog at the beginning of her breast cancer journey. For those of you who are interested in reading more about the journey you can sign in by clicking here.
About Cheryl Moore: Cheryl is the co-owner and co-administrator of The Tree House Children’s Center and is the director of the Preschool programs. She has been a preschool teacher for over 20 years and holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. During those 20 years she has worked as a teacher and director in full time centers, owned and operated a family home child care center, and been the head teacher for two different Parent Cooperatives. She is passionate about working with children and their families. She believes that working together we can give the children the tools they need to build strong relationships as they grow up.
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