When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never dreamed it would all be so complicated. I also didn’t realize I’d have to make decisions that would affect my ‘survival rate’ or ‘cancer recurrence rate.’ I thought a team of doctors would tell me what to do. Everybody I met had a different opinion, and ultimately, I had to make my own decisions about surgery and treatment options.
Hot Hubby and I pondered such delights as potential recurrence and survival rates versus percentage of potential side effects for various treatments. And as Hot Hubby pointed out, I decreased my survival rates by driving to these all of these appointments with the crazy LA drivers out there!
My battle is far from over, and I could be sharing a very different story or not be here to share at all had I detected this disease later.
As it turned out, breast cancer had a lot to teach me:
- This is science and doctors are all “practicing” medicine.
- The little things that would really freaking irritate me… well, they seem quite insignificant now.
- I am incredibly grateful for so many things. And gratitude is so powerful and healing. I’m especially grateful for the people who showed kindness and helped us through our toughest times. I wish I could write every single name down to thank them, but they all know who they are.
- I’m really happy to be alive. I’m grateful for each milestone I celebrate with my children and can’t help but think how these milestones would look had I died.
- I don’t like to talk about my cancer because I want to protect you and me from an uncomfortable conversation. I don’t want to be ‘Debbie Downer’ or a bore because ‘I’m still here’. I can’t bear the discomfort in your eyes and voice. The truth is I’m riddled with medical problems: hormonal mood swings, intense joint pain, insomnia, chemo-brain, menopause, fatigue… all caused by daily medications. That I get to take for ten years. It totally f-ing sucks to be honest.
- I’m not angry that I had cancer. The closest to anger is when I think about the worry, pain and fear that forced my sweet boys to grow up more quickly.
- I refuse to feel ashamed of my scars and my reconstructed breasts. I am proud of my body and what it has overcome.
- Do I have cancer cells waiting to parade through my body? Am I exercising enough? Will my semi-plant based diet prevent cancer cels from growing? Will my love of tequila cause a recurrence? Who the f**k knows… it’s all a big mystery. As a breast cancer survivor I live with this uncertainty forever.
- I pretend I’m not, but I’m often really scared. Fear hits me when I least expect it. I held steadfast and strong for four weeks, preparing my mind and body for an invasive-9hr-life-altering surgery, yet I often fall apart if the nurse can’t find my vein at my oncology appointment. My fears are bottled up inside and fall out when I least expect them. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cause a scene. I wish I could control this.
- I thought once I finished my treatment and the surgeries were healed, I’d be on ‘the other side.’ There is no other side for a breast cancer survivor. My life is split into two parts: life before I was diagnosed with breast cancer and life after cancer.
I’m told that my five and ten year anniversaries are significant. Each headache and knee pain over the next few years will be stressful with the “what if’s,” but I refuse to live in fear. I will continue to live life full and large, and as Nemo said, “Just keep swimming!”
Samantha Kuhr is a travel and health writer, breast cancer survivor and Supermom to two active boys! She’s a digital and brand consultant, and founder of My Traveling Circus. She keeps it real and shares stories of raising teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with her dry, and sometimes naughty, sense of humor.