Here is Alicia’s story and Alicia also has her own website: http://www.outcamethesunshine.blogspot.co.nz/.
April 4, 2011, is a date that will stay with me for the rest of my life. That was the day I was told that I had breast cancer. As my GP explained my condition and the possible treatment that I would undergo, I remember sitting up straight but feeling like I was shriveling up inside. It was a sensation that I had never experienced before. So many thoughts ran through my mind. For the most part they were centred on the fact that breast cancer was meant to happen to other people. Not necessarily bad people or older woman, just everyone else. But there I was; a wife, a mother of two and only 30 years old. I had cancer. It wasn’t until I was finished chemotherapy, a whole four months after my diagnosis that I was actually able to admit to my disease. It was just so weird, for so long, to consider myself as a cancer patient.
That night, family and friends surrounded us. I cried. They cried. My husband spread the word. As much as I would have rather have shared the news myself I was just too upset. Every time I saw someone for the first time, after my diagnosis, I found myself holding back tears. I’m not sure why. Did it have to do with me admitting that I had cancer? Was it seeing the pity in their eyes? I honestly don’t know. I only had to tell my work colleagues. I was very grateful that my husband did the rest.
I lost a great deal to cancer. My hair fell out along with a couple of toenails. I lost my sense of control and immortality. Both totally crazy ideals, I know. But, only my cancer ordeal brought them to the light. Want me to be truthful? Well, there were some family and friends who made themselves pretty scarce once I was diagnosed. This, sadly, was what I heard other cancer sufferers experience. Strangely enough though, I gained far more than I lost.
My solid, happy marriage grew. The two most beautiful girls in the world (my daughters) received concentrated lessons on life. I came to realise just how vain I was. The loss of my hair shook me far more than I imagined. Then, I developed discoloration on my face. Man, it got me. So, some more lessons were learned there, on my part. My husband and I both learnt that one could still maintain a sense of contentment even in the midst of storm. I had to stop work, I couldn’t always be there for my husband or children, I found that I didn’t always have the energy to talk, let alone exercise. But, there was an evening there when the husband and I looked at each other and agreed that we were still happy. Cancer did not get us. What else did I gain? I have connected with some wonderful women who shared their journey with me. Their friendship has been outstanding. I experienced such an abundance of love and support, all of which I never really knew was there. I have wonderful family and friends and their presence during my journey, while it certainly didn’t surprise me, I was just incredibly touched to be on the receiving end of all of the love. It was so overwhelming. It seems that in tough times people actually get to show how much they care.
I have my strengths. However, hospitals, doctors, nurses and especially needles have never been one. Even visiting someone else in the hospital gets me nervous. I get weak in the knees. So, for me to have gone through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, not to mention the innumerable number of tests along the way, is quite a feat. I really don’t want to be cliché but, if I can do it, anyone can.
The best advice I received was to take each day at a time. I was allowing myself to get too consumed with all the stuff that was ahead of me. And, when I did dwell on such things, I would find myself being crushed by the enormity of the situation. For someone who loves to plan ahead, it was an effort to stop and focus only on the here and now. I planned nothing. When I was feeling good I enjoyed myself. When the energy levels were low I rested.
Cancer took me to different places. I got to know myself better. And, I got to see what I needed to change. For that reason, I do not consider 2011 as a year that was wasted because I had spent too much time fighting breast cancer. Rather, it was a year that I allowed my cancer to teach me some pretty tough life lessons. For that reason, I am grateful for the opportunities that this illness brought me. Crazy thinking hey? But, I absolutely mean it.
I was so amazed when I met happy, smiling, joking and kind women at the breast care clinic. I was expecting to see walking zombies whose faces were a permanent frown. Breast cancer can be fought. Muster the strength from those around you; smile when you can, laugh as much as possible. You can beat it.