Friday, September 11, 2009

Lucky with Cancer

Here is a poem that I've composed to help express my cancer experience:

When I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at age 34, my first thought was, "I'm not strong enough." My first question was, "Am I gonna die?" What I learned through my cancer journey is that I am strong enough, I'm not gonna die, and I am lucky.

I waited five long days to first meet my medical oncologist. I guess five days isn't that long because some women wait as long as a month to meet with hers. Mine spent two hours visiting with me and my family. He sat patiently and looked me in the eye, as well as my family. He listened and he heard and he asked questions. He didn't speculate. He gave us direction. I am lucky.

The following weeks I had long days of testing. I was poked with needles to inject dye, to withdraw blood and to relieve pain. I was pushed and pulled through large scanning devices. One surgery sewed a Power Port to my left side and a knife cut out lymph nodes from my right side. The test showed the cancer hadn't spread. I am lucky.

During the next four months, every three weeks for about four hours, I sat in a comfy, leather recliner as poison dripped into my veins. I felt sick, my hair fell out, I slept for the majority of that week, I had daily nose bleeds and my immune system struggled. I couldn't be around my brand new niece for two weeks because she was sick and I couldn't risk the illness. But the chemo shrunk my cancer. It worked. I am lucky.

My surgical oncologist had gone over three possible procedures to remove the remaining cancer. He too sat with me and my husband, as well as his nurse practitioner. For over two hours, I listened and I cried. They talked and they comforted. Remove one breast, remove both and reconstruct or simply take only part of the one. Of these three, I chose the less extreme. After two surgeries, the results showed the cancer was gone. I still have both of my breasts with minimal scarring. I am lucky.

Because I chose to keep my breast, the demon it had become, I started radiation. I went daily, minus weekends and holidays. Thirty-three treatments in all. My half naked body laid on a metal table in a large, sterile room as a big machine radiated one side of my breast, then the other. Six permanent tattoos mark my body so that radiation was aligned perfectly each time. I had severe burning of the skin, I applied the cream four times a day as prescribed and I was tired. Combined with the other treatments, my chances of reoccurrance are less than two percent. I am lucky.

There is one medicine I still take and will take every three weeks until a year is fulfilled. It has caused some heart damage and water retention. My type of cancer was positive for a protein causing the cancer cells to divide quickly. This medicine puts up blockers to prevent the dividing. I take a diuretic to prevent the water retention and Potassium to restore what the diuretic depletes. But my type of cancer has a medicine to treat it. I am lucky.

Now, my hair is growing back. I am feeling better. My energy has increased. I'm sleeping every night, all night. The nightmares have stopped. And my one year wedding anniversary is right around the corner. See, I was diagnosed only a month after my wedding. My husband has been my angel. He was my strength. I am lucky.

The next five years will consist of regular mammograms and a daily pill. They say I shouldn't get pregnant for these five years. But I am alive and I will live. I won my war. I am lucky.

My future consists of fighting reoccurrance and fighting for a cure. My close friend of more than 24 years continues to fight her war. She's won many battles but without a cure, the odds are against her. We share a name, a disease, a past and a friendship. We share hope. For this, I am lucky.


No comments: