June is National Cancer Survivors month here in the U.S. I celebrated National Cancer Survivors Day (June 1) by walking in Day 2 of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago. Today, I was looking through some journal entries and emails from my first year, and I thought I’d share two entries with you.
Has your breast cancer experience changed your life?
I was asked this question within the first year after my diagnosis. Here is what I shared. (Edited)
I am told that women who are survivors find that their life does change; some more dramatically than others. My life was forced into change after December 2007 through circumstances (other than the cancer) beyond my control. I chose to embrace these changes, accept what is and rely on God to bring me through it. Part of the journey has been painful but I know that I am right where I am supposed to be right now. I do not believe that God “did this” to me. Nor do I believe that God “let it happen.” Rather, I believe that God knew what was (and is) on my horizon and orchestrated my life so that I could best deal with the challenges. I decided that after March 5, 2008 (my final chemotherapy treatment) I would take care of myself through healthy eating, exercise and reading. I decided not to look for a full time job until after the bar exam results came out so that if I was unsuccessful I would have the summer to study. This was a wise decision.
As some of you know, I was unsuccessful on my first attempt at the bar exam. I missed “passing” by 17 points or 7 multiple choice questions. While this news was initially devastating, once I received my grades in the mail I became quite motivated by how well I had done despite being in a chemo fog. In retrospect I really felt lousy during the exam, but I did what I had set out to do and that was take the exam. Also, as some know, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of that April. However, having a simplified life made reviewing for the bar exam and helping my mother easier.
We started eating organic. Though I have not become obsessed with it; I still eat out in restaurants and enjoy the occasional pizza or Chinese food. I am trying to get back to eating healthy. Too many lunches of grilled cheese and French fries in the cafeteria certainly could not have been good for me. I stopped eating beef and pork for a while, but now enjoy the occasional steak or roast. I try to eat low fat and avoid fried foods. Of course, the pizza and Chinese food is a contradiction. Whoever said I was consistent? I now walk at least one mile three times a week. The first time I took a walk after finishing chemotherapy really hurt. Intellectually I knew that treatment had taken away my strength but somehow I thought I could just jump right back into exercising. My doctors had advised taking it slow by walking twenty minutes three times a week to get started. They sure were right! I find that each walk is a bit easier than the last.
So I’m not really sure how my life changed, if at all, other than trying to embrace a slower pace, focus on one event at a time, and listen to God. I don’t believe my outlook on work, family or faith has changed.
On November 29, 2008
One year ago, on November 29, I had surgery for breast cancer. I celebrate today as my one year anniversary of being cancer free. I know I faced other challenges with chemotherapy and radiation afterwards, but I count those as preventative medicine. I truly believe that I was cancer free as of my surgery. I owe each and every one of my friends and extended family a huge debt of gratitude for your love, prayers and support. I learned that you can get through anything with the love of your friends. I also believe that I received the gift of healing between the time of my diagnosis on November 2, 2007 and my surgery. Even my doctors were amazed at my various test results. I know that came from the faith that each one of you carries.
While the past year was filled with challenges and losses, it was also filled with grace, love and many gifts. I am thankful for so many things: my health, passing the bar exam, and my new kitten to name a few. However, love, hope and grace remain the greatest gifts I received.What I wrote then is true today. The love of family and friends will get you through challenges. God will give you a second chance. And the greatest gifts are love, hope and grace.