Live in the Moment
I found the lump myself and knew in my heart what it was.
In August 2017, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive lobular breast cancer. This was my second occurrence. Wait a minute…I just moved here. I just started dating again! I was a Zumba instructor!
As a retired labor and delivery nurse, I jumped on the Let’s get this taken care of bandwagon. Rally the troops…my cancer team. But this time, the roles were reversed. After 29 years in a career where I cared for others, I now had to allow others to care for me. It was very difficult for me to turn over care to others, but I knew I had to. You can’t just do this all on your own.
Mastectomy first. Lose my breast? Yes! She’s trying to kill me. Fifteen lymph nodes, all positive. Really?! Another punch to the gut!
Oncology next! My parents were with me when I was told that I had Stage 3! Wow…any good news? Yup. Sixteen rounds of chemotherapy! Lose my hair? Check! All of my hair, including eyebrows and lashes? Check! I shaved my head almost immediately after starting chemo. Why wait for it to slowly fall out? I didn’t want to look sick.
The television ad. “A day after chemo may mean a trip to your doctor’s office.” Yes, every day for seven days, a shot of Granex kept my white blood cell count up. Twenty-one shots total when all was said and done.
And did I mention that my so-called insurance didn’t cover anything? It’s expensive to get a breast cancer diagnosis, let alone a repeat one.
My brother and sister took turns living with me for four months. It’s a Christmas miracle how well we all got along. But that’s what cancer does. It changes you. The choice is yours what that will look like.
I sailed through the chemo, largely in part because music was my release! I’m a Zumba junkie. I rolled into the chemo center, full makeup on and ready to dance the five hours away. No rest for the weary, I say. I truly believe that a positive attitude and a zest for life helps just as much as anything.
Music and dance saved me. When I’m teaching Zumba and am in that room with my people, life is good.
Radiation was next. Six-and-a-half weeks of daily radiation. How bad can it be? Again, I took the attitude of I’ve got this! This was the job. Go in. Take care of it. Do it beast mode.
Yes, there are fears. Yes, it is difficult. But it’s doable. If you just go in with an open mind and an open heart, you will find so many blessings.
I drove every day to my “radiation vacation.” By the third week, I was already experiencing second-degree burns. No more cardio for this girl. Oh, and yes, I continued doing my Zumba and daily walks.
Every time the nurses looked at my one breast and chest area, they would grimace. It was painful and difficult to treat. I tried every ointment there was. I didn’t want to lose the skin. I had new boobs in my future, right?
I survived, and so did my skin and nipple. The next hurdle was waiting seven more months for the skin to properly heal, and then I would have my reconstruction.
I spent the summer and fall with my friends, trying to live a normal life again. I was 61 and single, rebuilding my life after a move to a new city and a repeat diagnosis.
In November, I had my reconstruction. I have a pair again. Not the same as before, but I’m not complaining.
The process took 15 months, and I’m three months out from my last surgery.
It was difficult, and there were times when I screamed out loud. But I also thanked God every single day for the blessings. I’m a thriver now.
You have to live for now. Put everything into today and do your thing. Surround yourself with positive people and give back. I’m now mentoring other women who are navigating life with a cancer diagnosis. You can adapt to your new normal and still find joy in the moment.