Six years ago today, my breast surgeon turned to me and said, "Let me tell you about your cancer," and it all began.
I was told I had the "bad" cancer, the triple negative kind that has no drugs to counteract its attempts to recur after my treatments ended. I was also informed I had the most aggressive type and that it was close to the chest wall. I was not given a lot of hope. In fact, I was scared to death... of death.
But I fought. I learned how a few days after my diagnosis when I was in Manhattan the morning of September 11th, 2001. I went from frightened and helpless to warrior. I saw that I was given the chance to fight and the people who were in those buildings, smoldering before me, did not.
I was told that chemo works better on triple negative disease, and so I agreed to go through it. I had many surgeries and radiation, too.
Then the waiting began. With cancer, if you can make it past your first two years without a recurrence, then the tumor is most likely completely gone. Doctors don't really feel at ease though until you reach your third year. Then, if you are triple negative, if your cancer has not returned, your chances of it ever returning sharply decline.
With each succeeding year of being disease free, a triple negative cancer is less likely to return.
I was the most frightened reaching my five year mark, probably because there is so much emphasis put on it with the way statistics are measured.
My five year came and went, but there was a problem, like a distant bell ringing in my heart. I knew there was something wrong, I just couldn't seem to get my breast surgeon to listen to me....
My triple negative cancer did not return. But I did get a new primary of lobular, estrogen/progesterone positive cancer. A new cancer in the other breast is not metastatic disease, it is treated as aggressively as any newly diagnosed breast cancer. And I am being treated as aggressively as humanly possible because we are shooting for nothing less than a cure.
I will always reflect on this day as the day that changed my life profoundly. I am smarter and I am stronger and I am victorious.
I am also happy.
I thought my first go around made me appreciate life more - well this time I am truly in awe of all that surrounds me and I am making the most of every single moment on this earth.
And oh I love the life within me
I feel a part of everything I see
And oh I love the life around me
A part of everything is here in me
I may be in chemo again this cancerversary, but I feel more at peace and more grateful and more full of life than I have in six years and one day.
Thank you, all my sisters, for bringing me through the dark times, for laughing with me at the absurd times, for crying with me both tears of joy and heartbreak, and for the love you have shown me.
And, if there are any newbies reading this: You can do this. You can get through every step you are being asked to take, every treatment you must endure, every victory small and large. There are women around you ready to take your hand and show you the way. You have entered a sisterhood stronger than anything you could ever imagine and you are, above all, not alone.
To six years!
I made a promise I swore I'd always remember, no retreat, baby, no surrender.