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June 4th, 2012

Excuse me for that Beyonce moment for a minute - it could not be helped. Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day, and I'm feeling both grateful and sad. It's been almost 19 months from my diagnosis date, 14 months since I finished chemo, and 9.5 months out from the end of radiation, and sometimes it still feels like I heard the horrible news just yesterday. I still have moments when it hits me, out of the blue: "Holy shit, I had cancer. At 30-something." Even after all of this time, it still takes my breath away.

I just read on my FB Young Survivor's group that yet another woman in her 30s passed away after an almost 6-year battle; another woman I know who has been on chemo for most of the last several years found out that her cancer has again metastasized. Forget the cute pink ribbons and the "save the boobies" crap - cancer is an evil bitch, and breast cancer can be especially insidious.   

But I'm also so grateful because, DAMN IT, I'M STILL HERE. After:

  • 8.5 rounds of chemo (the .5 from when I had an allergic reaction to chemo and nearly died) and the fucking awful side effects, including losing my hair
  • A unilateral mastectomy with removal/biopsy of 7 lymph nodes (which all came back CLEAN because the chemo helped to get rid of it in the 1 affected node)
  • Months of painful skin stretching from a balloon implant that was inflated every few weeks in preparation for my breast reconstruction surgery
  • 28 rounds of radiation (where I was burnt to a fucking crisp and prayed that my raw skin wouldn't get infected)
  • 1 latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstruction surgery
I'M STILL HERE.  I'm a mess of scars and my skin is still dark from the radiation and I still have a lot of residual numbness from the combo of radiation and the lymph node removal, but I'M STILL HERE. I'm still tired as hell and my body is still struggling to recover after the year from hell, but I have no evidence of disease, and I'M STILL HERE.  Every day I  try and get back to my new normal and try not feel like I'm a ticking time bomb, just waiting for a new symptom to rear its ugly head, or some new proof that my hellish nightmare isn't over.  But you know, what? I'M STILL HERE, DAMN IT.  And this says it all:

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