by Shannon Cox
As a breast cancer survivor, I realize the month of October means different things to different people. Last year for me it was really tough. I was only six months out of treatment and every single emotion that went along with being diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer was still very raw. Treatment was grueling with five months of chemotherapy plus a bilateral mastectomy. Last October, I was healing and processing. Cancer was still on my mind every single day. And it was difficult for me to see all of the pink.
Last October, I was at the stage where any new ache or pain would induce a panic attack that my cancer had metastasized elsewhere in my body. I would rush to my oncologist to have it all checked out. So far so good, but those thoughts linger and those fears are very real.
Last October I was processing; we were all processing what we had just been through as a family. The heartaches, the fears, the exceptionally difficult days.
This year finds me a year and a half out from the end of treatment and almost two years since my diagnosis. This year also finds me a lot healthier than last year and with slightly longer hair. I’m no longer struggling to get through the days with leftover chemo fatigue. I’m beginning to find my sense of self again as well as who I am as a person, as a woman; post-cancer and breastless. My husband and kids are healing too. Sometimes that means that my kids are asking the hard questions. They worry too that it will come back. And we tell them the same thing we tell ourselves. If it does, then we will treat it just like we did before.
The scary part is that if it does come back, that would mean that it’s stage IV or metastatic. It would mean that there is no treatment to cure it. Because my cancer was triple negative, there are no targeted drugs on the market yet. And that, my friends, is frightening.
So, what does October mean to me? I believe it’s evolving. I believe that each year it will probably mean something a little different. This year it means that I’m grateful to be where I am. That my heart aches for all of my friends with mets, yet swells with pride for how courageous these women are. I read their stories and I learn from them. October means I’m going to tell all of you to do your breast self exam. And I’ll probably tell you that multiple times, because it could save your life. I’m going to tell you to be your best advocate if you feel like something is wrong in your body. I’m going to push you to get your mammogram. And I will do all of this because my cancer was so incredibly hard to find. I am thankful that I pushed and that I had doctors who pushed just as much to figure out what was growing in my right breast. I will encourage all of you to donate to legitimate research organizations. Especially organizations that are putting their research dollars to work to find life-long treatment options and hopefully one day a cure for metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer. http://www.metavivor.org/
So this year I am embracing October. Wrapping my arms around it and loving that it gives me an opportunity to reach out to all of you and encourage you to take care of yourself too.
Shannon is a writer, graphic designer and breast cancer survivor. After going through treatment for breast cancer, she put her graphic design background to use in creating funny, sweet, empowering & inspirational greeting cards for cancer patients and others going through difficult times. You can find her cards on Etsy at http://StripedHatStudio.Etsy.com