I was 44 when I was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer on June 22, 2007. My tumor was 5 centimeters, and I ended up having a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and herceptin; I recently started the usual five-year stint on tamoxifen to lower my chances for a recurrence.
Through it all, I’ve emerged a survivor and a warrior; I have earned those titles. I have survived the biggest, darkest, scariest fight of my life – and I am truly sorry if you are reading this because you have this dreaded cancer too. But I am here to tell you that it really does get better.
Here are a few important tips from the trenches that helped me get through treatment:
1. Educate yourself. There will be a ton of medical terms and procedures thrown at you in the beginning. Know all of your choices. You have control over treatment and surgeries and understanding what you’re up against will make you better prepared for the fight.
2. Get a port. If you are having chemotherapy, having a port put in will save the veins in your arm from extra abuse since the nurses can use the port to draw blood as well as administer medicine, saving you from many extra pokes. Certain chemos can burn though your veins and a port can save that painful problem as well.
3. Be open to an antidepressant. The emotional and physical demands of treatment can be overwhelming. I thought I was strong, but having breast cancer, a mastectomy, and chemo kicked my butt; Zoloft has helped with the feelings of lethargy and bleakness.
4. Wait before you get a prosthetic. Your body needs several months for the swelling to go down. I went for a fitting way too soon and paid tons of money for two fake boobs that don’t fit right; I’ll be donating them.
5. Remember that you are not lost. Hearing you have cancer is devastating and losing a breast is a huge adjustment. To top it off, you lose your hair and end up wondering who that stranger is in the mirror. It takes time and patience, but there will come a day when you’ll see beauty and strength in the mirror. You are still here but changing into a beautiful warrior. Fight on! Shine on!
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Lesa Sverid lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where she writes her blog, Fighting for a Cure (http://lesasbreastcancer.blogspot.com). She sends hand-made cards at no cost to women with breast cancer; for more information go to http://littlelifepreservers.com.