6 May 2012 – and 7 years since my breast cancer diagnosis. I was 20 days away from my 33rd birthday.
I don’t remember a lot from that day 7 years ago except this….I remember waking up in the recovery room after a lump removal and my surgeon was leaning over me and simply said ‘Kellie, it is breast cancer’. The next thing I remember is being in my hospital room and again my surgeon was visiting and he said ‘I knew you understood me from the tear that ran down your face’….
The next few months are an absolute blur. Within a space of 6 months I had another surgery (to confirm margins and to have my lymph nodes remove. The cancer had spread to 2 lymph nodes), many an appointment with a fertility expert to discuss if I wanted to have eggs removed in case the Chemo put me into menopause (I decided not to, there was just way too much else going on), Chemo and then daily radiation.
I decided to keep working (and studying, I was completing a University Degree) throughout all of my treatment, something I am not sure I would do again. However I remember feeling that I needed life to have some sense of normality. Luckily I had a very supportive workplace, friends and family. I am a youth worker and the best medicine was the young people that I worked with. They were actually able to laugh with me and make jokes about my bald head and my tiredness, something some adults seemed to struggle with! And something I really appreciated.
I don’t feel that too much has changed in my life since this time except that I really learnt to not stress about the things you can’t change. A motto I now live every day by….
I continue to be on Tamoxifen (Hormone Therapy) and if my doctor has her way I will be for the rest of my life. Nothing wrong with this, I am lucky and have not suffered too many side effects. The worst one was a slight bout of depression which my Oncologist was happy to prescribe anti-depressants but I decided not to take them and instead to make sure I had a good work/ life balance and to exercise daily.
So, I am now 25 days away from my 40th birthday and while searching the internet for something exciting to do for my birthday, I came across a ‘Pink Ribbon’ retreat in Bali. Perfect!! Not just because it is about raising awareness and money for breast cancer in Bali, but my diagnosis actually came about 3 weeks after returning from a holiday in Bali. I rang my Mum and my sister and we head off in 2 weeks time. I can’t wait. I will actually be standing on top of a volcano (after a 3 hour trek L) on my 40th birthday. Mum has already organised the Champagne to drink at the top.
What would I say to someone going through treatment now?
So, what would I say to someone currently going through treatment for breast cancer? You need to face each day as it comes, listen to your body and emotions and do what YOU need to do to make you feel better, don’t sweat the stuff you can’t change just face it and move on, surround yourself with positive people (and in my case completely sarcastic and funny people) and remember you too will be 7 years on one day and you know what, I don’t think about my Breast Cancer much anymore. I have obvious scars, only 1 ½ boobs, and tattoos (from radiation) but I hardly notice those anymore either. It is what it is…..
Bring on Bali and being 40 I say!!!!!!