Friday, May 30, 2014

A New Normal

This post is especially difficult to write. In recent months, I've had a particularly hard time finding the right words, so I haven't said much. Today, I will attempt to do better.

In December, a routine mammogram found a small mass in my breast and a biopsy later confirmed it was cancer. I was given a very encouraging prognosis. We found it early. It was still small. It hadn't spread. And the lumpectomy appeared to have removed all of it.

Despite all of this good news, I've been exceedingly reticent to divulge the diagnosis to any but a few close friends, colleagues and family members. At first I didn't understand why. After a while the reasons became more clear.

I don't want to be defined by this disease, which I've seen happen to other women all too often. I don't want anyone to be fearful of using the word, "cancer" in my presence. Then again, I don't want people to look at me and only see cancer. I don't want friends, colleagues or acquaintances to avoid me or be afraid to talk to me. I don't want this illness to be held against me in the workplace. And I don't want anybody to automatically think that I'm special because I'm battling the same disease that millions of women face every year.

Throughout the treatment process, I've wanted to tell my story. One of physical, mental and emotional struggle as well as personal triumph. But the words just wouldn't come. I still haven't figured out how one is supposed to go about breaking this kind of news.

I'm thankful that I faithfully go for an annual mammogram. Otherwise, the situation could have been so much worse. I couldn't feel the lump. My gynecologist wasn't able to detect it, even though she had the mammogram results. The follow-up mammogram wasn't even definitive. It was a sonogram done, "just in case" that indicated that I needed a biopsy.

I'm happy to say that my final radiation treatment took place on May 19. On that last day of treatments, I had a red, itchy, sore, swollen, aching, and sunburned breast. Now I have a tan, peeling, sore, swollen and aching breast.  I'm still exhausted. I continue to hurt. But the treatments are done…and I'm only somewhat worse for the wear.

This fight will soon be behind me, and I couldn't be happier that I can now fully concentrate on healing and finding a new normal. A normal that I will define.

Thanks for reading!


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