When I turned 29 in 1991, I was ready to take on the world. I was very happy with my career path, enjoying a new relationship and was excited about turning 30. I was even considering the possibility of having children in my thirties. On September 4, 1991 all that I had wished for and dreamed of changed with six simple words, “You have Stage III Breast Cancer”.
When I was told that I had breast cancer a sigh of relief entered my thoughts. You see, for 7 months I was misdiagnosed by two doctors who said, “your body is chemically changing because you’re turning 30 and you have not had children yet”. I thought at the time, makes sense to me, especially with no family history.
When my new doctor informed that my body had been invaded by breast cancer, my first reaction is how do we get rid of it and not so much, why me. I figured I had plenty of time to complitate that theory, once I was cancer free.
I ended 1991 with a Mastectomy to my left breast and four rounds of chemotherapy. I rang in 1992 with more surgeries, Stem Cell replacement, which was considered a clinical trial at the time, 14 days in isolation and thirty rounds of radiation. When I signed the contract to do Stem Cell, it was a pivoting moment in my treatment. I realized this was it and I have become totally dependent on my body to heal itself, not only from the cancer, but from the treatment as well. I told my body while I was in isolation; this is your time to heal because, once this process is over, I will need it to be strong to carry me through a new life.
Eleven years later and one day, September 5, 2003 I was told this time in 4 words, “You have Metastatic Breast Cancer.” Now, I asked myself, why me and why now.
The cancer had come back and I was told that my prognosis was not good. The predication made by my doctor was five years. I asked him, for what treatment? He merely stated, NO, to live. His response to my question will forever be embedded in my mind. It’s similar to when a woman hears the words, “you’re pregnant.” I call these lifetime words, meaning they last a lifetime and never leave your memory.
After numerous needles, drugs, chemo, radiation, 23 surgeries, hundreds of pills, tears, fear, hope, faith, this September marks my 6th year of survival from Metastatic Breast Cancer. I have learned to live with my shadow, cancer. My doctor told me that living with Metastatic breast cancer is like having HIV or heart disease. Meaning, I will always be on some sort of treatment, but can live a very full and long life. My body and I have learned to take care of each other.
Cancer has changed my life in ways that I never imagined. My experience with cancer has taught me many life lessons that I may not have learned. It has taught me the “Dance of Life.” Everyday is a celebration for me. I embrace life with joy, gratitude and respect. Cancer was then and this is my now.