Write every day: The Year Ahead

My breast surgeon said it best: “You’re going to walk through hell and we’re going to go together.” Cancer is the hero’s journey like none other.

Yesterday, I was formally staged as having Stage 2A breast cancer. This might sound scary though is still considered early stage and my specific type is abundantly treatable with surgery and meds because it’s fed by estrogen. I’m so lucky I went for my screening when I did. It saved my life.

Today I’m going to have my first tissue expander expansion post-surgery. I have to honest—I’m a little scared because my pain hasn’t subsided, especially since my extra lymph node surgery last week set me back a few weeks. My friend, Edith Gonzalez, offered to go with me and I gladly accepted. This is one of the few types of appointments when someone can go with me.

Chemo starts on December 15th, and I’ll get the standard aggressive 8 treatments over the course of 16 weeks. The first 4 will be tougher than the second 4 because they are different medications. Between now and then, I have a multitude of appointments, procedures,and learning sessions to get me ready for chemo. Chemo will take me to late March.

Then I’ll get a month of healing and in late April I’ll have 5 weeks of radiation therapy every weekday. That will take me to late May. Then we start hormone therapy for 10 years, and my reconstruction which will wrap up by about this time next year.

Now, I love timelines, process flows, and plans but damn. Intense treatment for a year, even in waves and phases with all their own side effects that will physically and molecularly change my body and mind, is an absolute rollercoaster, especially in the middle of COVID. It’s exhausting. There’s no other word for it.

I have survived multiple bouts of trauma in my life, and now I know they prepared me for this. This is the work, and there’s no way or no one to minimize it. I must be healed. The world must be healed. But healing isn’t easy. Healing hurts. It’s difficult and it must be done and I will do it.

When someone calls themselves a survivor of a life-threatening illness, we’re a bit too cavalier. We toss around that title as if it’s nothing because so many people fall into that group now thanks to modern medicine. Let me tell you, it is a big something to be a survivor of a life-threatening illness that you didn’t cause by your own actions. I am one, will continue to be one, and am determined to help others climb this mountain, too.