One year after my breast cancer diagnosis

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If you know me well, you know that I love a countdown. Birthdays, half-birthdays, vacations etc,  it’s always so fun to look forward to something. Except, March 13. This past Sunday marked one year since receiving the worst news of my entire life- my breast cancer diagnosis. I dreaded this day more than anything. But, and there is a big but, I wanted this years March 13th to be full of happy and good memories! It was very important to me that nice things now happen on this day, because March 13, 2015 was the worst day of my life.

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So my parents offered to have Princess Peach and Little Dude sleep over, while The Hubster and I went off to Niagara Falls Saturday night. We went to the casino to play craps and my favourite slot machines. Sadly, we didn’t win but we had lots of fun! Sunday morning came and went really. We didn’t have a kid wake us up in the morning, we had a quiet breakfast, went to the Falls, and then headed off to the outlet mall. Then home to see the kiddies. It was my kind of perfect for doing nice things on March 13.

So what have I learned 365 later? A whole lot. I probably could write a book about it all but I will summarize here.

I’ve learned tons about myself

I am way stronger and braver than I would have ever thought I would be. Cancer was never in my life plans, especially at this age, but I think I handled myself better than I ever could have expected.  I 100% believe that having a positive attitude can change the trajectory and even outcome of any situation. I would often say that “who knew I could be a happy person with cancer” and I meant it. Faced with this awful disease, I was happy. Truly happy and made some amazing memories.

I learned lots about the people around me

I am truly blessed with an amazingly supportive husband and mother. Without the two of them, I’m not sure where I would be today. They took care of everything related to me,my kids and our house when I was unable to.  My mom even moved into my house after each round of chemo to help care for me and my kids. I didn’t think at 34 that I’d be having sleepovers with my mom! I also have an incredible group of family and friends who showed me and my family so much love and support throughout this. I have said this the entire time, but my kids have been my best medicine. One day they will know how important they were to heal my heart and soul during this time. I’ve also learned that when faced with an awful situation, not everyone shows up. I try not to dwell on that or those people, but that’s life and there’s always disappointment.

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I’ve learned that cancer will sadly always be a part of my life

It won’t rule my life, but it will always be a fear in the back of my head. I’ve come to realize since completing treatment, that the after effects of cancer are much worse than going through the treatments itself. The anxiety and fear that creep up on you when you least expect it, can be terrifying. Every ache and pain now scares me. I try not to focus on them either but some days it’s hard not to get me down.

I’ve learned that body image and cancer go hand-in-hand.

The amount of people who saw and touched my breasts before I lost them was crazy. When you get a breast cancer diagnosis, you have to have no shame. You are poked and prodded and looked at by so many people. Losing my hair was the most devastating. It is growing back and at a very fast rate. It’s extremely curly which is also a change for me. How I see myself in my mind is not what I see looking back at me in the mirror. My image of myself needs to shift. Losing my breasts has been hard too, so I try not to look at my scars and worry so much about how clothes fit. I recently got breasts prosthesis so when I wear clothes, the chest looking back at me, looks like me, well the old-precancerous me.

I’ve now erased two sayings from my vocabulary since my diagnosis.

I use to say “everything happens for a reason” but that sentence will never again cross my lips. How could I look at my life and say “everything happens for a reason”? There is no reason for a young person with so much potential to ever have their life ruined like this. So no, everything does NOT happen for a reason. The other saying that I have refused to say is “why me?”. I could sit on my couch crying and pity myself and asking “why me?” over and over. But, truthfully that won’t do me any good. So this entire time I have refused to ever think about that.

I’ve learned that there are amazing organizations that want to help

These organizations provided so much help to me and my family during this past year. One particular organization is Nanny Angel Network. At the end of this month, Little Dude will have his last visit with our Nanny Angels. Over this past year, we have been blessed with two incredible women who alternate Saturdays to help us out. They do this as a volunteer and out of the goodness of their hearts. Little Dude loves the two of them and has gotten into an incredible routine. As sad as it is to say goodbye to these two wonderful women, it is a great sign as we no longer require their help.

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This past year has been something else. Sometimes when I look back at pictures, I can’t even begin to imagine that this was my life. It almost seems like it was a horrible night, but it’s not. I can only continue to stay positive and keep enjoying life because I’m so happy to still be here!

Comments

  1. You’re amazing, Renee – your attitude is totally inspiring! ^__^ Happy during cancer – I definitely had those moments too, thanks to my family and friends! XO

  2. lyndagarniss says:

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest about your feelings! You are an amazing women!

  3. shelahmoss says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I also detest the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes crappy stuff just happens. I look forward to hearing from you when you can declare yourself cancer free!

  4. I followed your journey this year and marveled at your strength and bravery and insight. I have never heard of the Nanny Angels, that is so amazing! Here’s to the future, cancer free!

  5. Not letting grief rule you is real strength, but you are right it’s something that would be hard to muster without support. Love the cake.

  6. kathy downey says:

    You are so very strong,an example for us all.Here’s to the future much happiness

  7. arlooandboo says:

    Hi Renee,

    It’s Reena (not sure if you remember me). I’m just dropping a line to say that I’m glad you’re doing well. Way to go for kicking cancer square in the face!

    I never walked a mile in your shoes. Maybe if I did, I would share the same sentiment you have about the whole “everything happens for a reason” saying. After reading your post, I still believe it to be a bit true.

    Let me start by saying that I am totally with you: fuck cancer! I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was really young. Who knows how different my life would be now if she was still around?

    But, look at all you’ve learned from going through this experience — about the unconditional love you have from your husband and mom (I’m sure you always knew you had that, but now it’s strengthened!!!), about how your kids have really stepped up to the plate to be strong for you (it just goes to show that you are doing an amazing job as a parent for raising your kids to be compassionate and supportive. The world needs more of that, for sure!!!). And look at yourself (you knew you were strong… but being this strong? Doesn’t it just blow you away?!?!?).

    I hope you don’t take offense to anything I’m saying. It is truly coming from a place of love — as a woman, as someone touched by cancer, and as a mom.

    I don’t know. Maybe things like this happen to people like you because you are strong enough to handle it, brave enough to tell your story, and loving enough to help others who are going through something similar feel less alone.

    That’s how I feel about you, at least.

    Thanks for sharing your words. All the best!

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