Last November, when I heard I have breast cancer, I felt like my life did a complete turn around. The healthy me was not really healthy after all. There were these creepy cancer cells classified as triple negative multiplying inside my right breast. I lost control over my everyday living, schedule, direction, and life. Cancer threatened me and disrupted my work and my children’s and loved one’s lives.
The bulk of my life now consists of doctor’s appointments, time offs to recover, wasteful time worrying, and numerous days of planning on the next course of treatment. Of course, the hospital team gave me choices within limits as far as when I want to do treatment, and options about types of treatment, but still cancer just about run my life. I lost control. That is something to grieve about. And boy, I am going through grieving.
The grief expert David Kessler expressed five stages of grief– denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All these stages I have touched.
In the beginning, I hoped the radiologists and pathologists made a mistake. “I don’t have cancer. It’s all a big mistake,” I said to myself. Then, I told Paul with tears in my eyes, “Tell those darn doctors to take the cancer diagnosis back,” or “They are lying.” This stage, I am glad, passed quickly. It did not help to be in denial. I had to make plans for my surgery. The tumors on my right breast were real and were not going anywhere.
My denial faded and got replaced with anger. How did I get cancer? I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I exercise. I take care of myself… I have to take care of my children. I am all they have I still get angry from time to time. Once when my pain got out of control after surgery. Another time, just recently, when I got hospitalized for Neutropenic fever as I suffered from the side-effects of chemo.
“Get rid of my cancer, God, and I will turn around and help people with cancer later.” Here’s another, “If You cure my cancer, I will be good. “ I’m ashamed to admit it, but I said that.
Sadness and Depression
Sadness, trouble sleeping and focusing on work and everyday tasks like doing bills, lack of energy, crying for no particular reason? I had it all. My support group, friends, and family helped me with this. The hardest time was before I announced the diagnosis. It is hard to keep the bad news to myself; I actually had physical symptoms–faint, nausea, and headaches. Coming out of the open, although shocked everybody, made me feel better. Exercising, Benadryl, and Ativan helped too. I still get sad sometimes but I try hard not to dwell on it.
I am working on this. Cancer treatment is a big part of my life. I accept that. But do I accept the new “normal” me–the bald, the weak, the complainer, the fragile, the sickly? Sometimes. However, the new normal me is currently still being defined. Just like my breasts lacking areola and nipples, I am a work in progress. Maybe my normal is provisional that changes from time to time. That is it. My normal today, may not be normal tomorrow. I need to learn to adjust better to all these changes.
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I feel good lately as I get close to my second round of chemo. I am over the dangerous stage (the first two weeks after chemo). My white blood count is up, and the shortness of breath seized. Last Friday, I took the kids to not-so-busy mall, just to window shop, walk around, and have ice cream.
Saturday, I went to my Filipino nursing group meeting, in which I am a board member. We were deciding who would be the nominees for the next voting–president-elect, treasurer, secretary, board members…I politely declined to hold board membership anymore–too much activity on my part. We had a mini potluck (baked chicken, fruits and vegetable party trays, cookies, and chips) in the meeting that my kids enjoyed. Yup, I took them with me. I don’t buy cookies anymore, so guess what they have a lot of?
Sunday, we went to a big recreation center, where I distanced myself from most people, except in the steam room. But when I heard someone coughed once, I got up quickly and left the room.
That is my weekend. Maybe today we will just sit on the couch and watch a movie while we loom-knit hats. I can use more hats. 🙂