Living with cancer

I finally have just one chemotherapy treatment left and I finally have decided to speak out on my situation. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and understanding it took time. It also was not easy to accept and I felt stigmatized, not only due to my internal medical conditions but because of what I would have to go through such as losing my hair. Moreover, I have to take unfamiliar treatments and strange medications that cause unbelievable side effects, this made me afraid of what I had to face and waiting for symptoms and then having to take other medications to deal with side effects. Though breast cancer is not death sentence anymore, and cancer itself does not cause hair loss, chemotherapy causes hair loss. I also felt that people felt different around me when they find out I had breast cancer and am having chemotherapy. I hated it, I am not suffering, am not a victim, and am not so unfortunate that I cannot use this opportunity to think about what the meaning of my life is.

I am a graduate student and have a full time job so my schedule was busy before the diagnosis. Since I found out about my breast cancer, my life has been very different and I have had to make many changes. I’ve taken a year off from school and had to take many days off from work. However every time I go to the hospital, I learn something new about cancer such as medical words, specific activities, professional procedures and treatments that I did not know anything about before. I also have to see a number of different doctors due to the different treatments I am in the process of receiving. Though I still have lots of hope, I am also afraid about what is going to happen in the future.

My treatments take place at cancer centers. These places are usually very busy, with patients sitting down quietly having their particular treatments with others waiting to have examinations or results. There are many different people there for treatment, but I guess our goals of defeating cancer are the same.

Before my surgery, I had many examinations such as mammograms, biopsies, blood examinations, genetics examinations and so on. When I went to the hospital I never left before getting at least two or more shots specifically on my right arm. It became a daily routine after a while. One day the nurse could not find where to give shots on my arm because of all the other needle marks, I’d had that many in such a short period of time that it was hard for her to find a good spot.

My longest mammogram took almost two hours, my longest biopsy took almost three hours and ultrasounds seemed to take forever. I wished the mammography machine was a kind of massage machine, then I wouldn’t have minded how long it took. I also wish the biopsy could be like acupuncture, it would be much more enjoyable. The ultrasound machine could be the same one used when women having babies have their stomachs checked, that would have been much more exciting… but reality was different from my hopes and imagination, those treatments were torturous and, even worse, just the beginning of my treatment and I felt hopeless much of the time.

I started hating to have to go to the Union Square area since before I associated it with young people that like to hang out, but because my hospital is there I started to feel different about that place. My feelings there were now of memories of my surgery, painful treatments, dizziness, medication, complicated examinations and also having the awful experience of being hospitalized. I thought that this is some kind of punishment, maybe I had done something wrong or was mean to people or my friends, maybe I gave them a hard time or did something wrong to myself. If it is true, I would definitely accept and take care of them……

Even though I am having hard time I try not to cry because my mother always told me that “even when you have a hard time, you should not cry. If you have the time to cry, you should face your problems and think about what you can do instead”. I am going to fight against my illness. My mother was also diagnosed with cancer a little while before me and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the same time as I am. We have something unusual in common but this has helped us to start talking to each other about being cancer patients. I told her “I won’t give up if you won’t” and we have promised to each other not to give up and to get though it. This is our hope.

I thought for a long time that my condition was a punishment, but I feel different now. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a gift because I have had important experiences and thoughts and have great support from my husband B, my dog G, my family members, and special doctors. This situation has given me a chance to look back on what I have done and what I should do in the future. Also, I have seen people who have brave hearts no matter their age, gender or nationality, and am truly impressed by them. These people made me realize I need to be strong like my mother who also always offers her support to me and being like her is my goal.

When my last chemotherapy session is over, I am scheduled to have radiation therapy and will also be on hormone therapy for five years. It is kind of a long journey. I still a lot of hope and am not afraid of anything anymore. It is my promise to my Mom and my supporters. Moreover, I want to make all my friends aware of the importance of see their doctor regularly for checkups. The best cancer treatment is the preventative kind.