My story of surviving cancer and physical and mental illnesses.
It was December 2011, and I was 35 years old. I was at the top of my game and living a great life. We were the perfect little family with a military dad, a special education teacher mom, a son, and a daughter. All we were missing was the picket fence (not that it’s my style). I had recently earned a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology with research concentration in internalizing disorders (i.e., anxiety and depression). Using that background, I designed and implemented the positive behavior program at the middle school where I was employed. My co-workers were some of my best friends, and my students were basically my adopted children for 8 hours a day. Life was so damn good.
“We have a problem.” That’s what the doctor told me when he read the results of the biopsy. “You have breast cancer and it’s aggressive.”, he said. We went into his old office where we discussed removing the breasts, keeping the nipples or not, and other surgical options. What the hell was I about to go through? People keep their nipples, and where do they put them? Before Christmas? I was overwhelmed by the questions popping up in my mind. Little did I know my world would change forever. I mean, everyone thinks they know what it’s like going through a disease like that. However, we never truly know how we will handle anything until it smacks us in the face (or boob).
Fast forward (for your sake) to the surgery. I had a mastectomy on the side with the cancer. My doctor was very conservative and felt it was best to focus on the one breast. He removed it and all its glory (the nipple) along with 17 lymph nodes, three of which had tumors. A month later I was receiving chemo. Interestingly, I suffered many of the possible side effects of that awful stuff. My oncologist and I are almost to the point when we can giggle about it (almost). Teaching and chemo treatments weren’t something this girl’s body was going to do at the same time, so I had to take a leave of absence. It was such a difficult decision for me. Remember, I was in my element and making a difference.
I went through a year of stuffing fuzzy socks in my bras (I needed that boob space filled…thank you, middle school years. Ha!), chemo, and radiation. Sometimes, I would take the socks out and tell people I was flashing them my boob or tell them I could wear my boob on my foot (insert giggle with slight eye roll). Humor was extremely important for me and those around me.
Seriously, it was the worst year of my post-cancer survival, so I thought.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you via comments or email.