Today, it’s been a year since I was first diagnosed with cancer, and quite the year it has been. I went from feeling happy and seemingly healthy to being pushed into a swirl of mammograms, biopsies, surgery, radiation and drugs. I’ve battled fear, uncertainty, anger, depression and tears. I’ve lived through changes in my physical appearance, seen my hair turn grey almost over night and witnessed my face age with worry and stress. Today, exactly one year later, I am trying to make sense of it all.
They said that once I am free of this disease that the days would seem brighter, life would have more meaning and I would find some renewed purpose in this world. It’s been six months since my last radiation treatment, and even though I face one more surgery at the end of year, for the most part, the doctors said that I am done with treatment and from now on, they will wait and watch the remaining calcifications in my breast tissue.
My days are not brighter and I am not happier. I am still searching for meaning…for something…to justify the course of the past year. During this time, I have met and befriended many other people who are also facing this affliction and though they all have on their most brave face, I am saddened that so many truly good people are going through this stupid disease. It’s astounding really, to count just how many people are facing a cancer diagnosis. For those that have survived, I am deeply sympathetic to their battle because like any war, the scars are much deeper than the amputated body parts.
Cancer changes you…deeply. I have changed my daily habits. I no longer live the blithe life of eating whatever I want, doing whatever I want, working out when I felt like it, staying out at all hours, using whatever personal products I found on sale and many other careless habits that quite honestly made my life enjoyable. I am cognizant now of everything that I put in or on my body. Doctors can’t pinpoint where or how I got this cancer. All they said was that it was not genetically motived, which leads me to believe that it was environmental; that I may be able to prevent a reoccurrence in the future if I just be really, really careful.
After I finished radiation, the doctors put me on a hormone-blocking drug that I was supposed to take for five years. The side effects were early menopause and an increased risk of uterine cancer. Within two months of starting the medication, I became severely depressed, crying for hours on end and barely able to get out of bed. I told my oncologist and she sent me to psychiatrist who prescribed an antidepressant pill whose side effects were even worse. I thought to myself, this is no way to live life…. as a hormonal zombie, so I stopped the medications altogether. Of course my oncologist was upset, but my other two doctors said they thought it was okay in my case. I felt somewhat reassured.
So I’ve decided to do this naturally instead. I have started Pomegranate Seed Oil, which according to a study, has been shown to inhibit growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, like mine, in culture. Additionally, I’ve had my blood work done to get a clearer profile of what’s going on inside my body. Through diet, exercise and nutrition, I plan on beating this thing. I try to eat an organic, plant-based diet full of raw colorful vegetables. I juice often, drink alkaline water and now use only paraben-free personal products. I regularly do yoga and meditate daily to stave off negative thoughts.
There are times when I forget what this past year has been like. Other times I still feel like I’m in a fog trying to find my way out. Something deep inside me has fundamentally changed and now I am trying to find a place for my new self. I am searching for something and I don’t really know what that will be, but I think I will know when I find it. Until then, I am just grateful that this year is over.