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Velvet Mask

I'm a Survivor, I'm Gonna Make It

Posted on 2012.06.04 at 00:38
Tags: , ,

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:


Nancy Drew Nickerson
ndnickerson at 2012-06-04 04:48 (UTC) (Link)
DAMN. You are a rockstar, especially to go through all that and come out the other side as incredibly awesome as you are. Cancer really is an evil, evil bitch, and I am so glad you made it through.

Thanks for sharing. I know that had to be rough, to go through and probably to even think about. Not to mention scary as hell.
littlemsmessy at 2012-06-05 00:28 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you - not a rockstar, just very fortunate to have extremely supportive friends and co-workers cheering me on the entire time. Whenever I was having a bad day, I'd get texts or cards or a delivery of flowers or a surprise package of fun stuff. My bosses were very good to me - they let me have a completely flexible schedule and made everyone leave me alone the few days after each chemo (or longer, if I needed - the effects got worse after each). My client could've demanded a replacement for me while I was going through everything because I'm their main contacts, but they did not - instead, they also sent cards and flowers and constantly checked in on me without ever asking work-related questions.

And, I made sure to do stuff that felt "normal", like go into the office when I was up to it or go out to eat or to the mall - I needed some kind of stability when everything was melting down around me. It was the scariest, hardest time of my life and some of it still feels like a blur.

I also have an amazing mom who took care of me throughout everything - took me to every doctor's appointment, every test, and every treatment. She cooked for me, helped me to eat/shower/ get dressed when I was recovering from my surgeries, slept in the chair next to me in the hospital, re-bandaged me and cleaned my surgical drains...The list goes on and on.

You'd think that all of the stuff I've mentioned here would be a given, but the horror stories I've heard made me realize that it's not. Without all of this support, I honestly don't know if I would've made it through as well as I have. ;)
Nancy Drew Nickerson
ndnickerson at 2012-06-05 01:57 (UTC) (Link)
That all does sound amazing - but still. I can't imagine going through something like that, and I'm just floored to hear about what you did. You are super lucky to have such a support system around you. Whew. And I'm so glad you did make it through!
killingstreak at 2012-06-04 16:08 (UTC) (Link)
you are one hell of a remarkable, amazing woman. respect!!!

i, on the other hand, would probably have just broken down and let the illness take me.

and YES, you're still here, alive and kicking and writing TONS of fantastic N/N fic! :D
littlemsmessy at 2012-06-05 00:39 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you - if you had asked me before all of this, I probably would've said the same thing. As it was, I cried every day, multiple times a day, for the first 2 months after I was diagnosed - in my boss's office, in the supermarket, in my car, at my desk, during every test... I should've bought stock in Kleenex, I swear.

But, you realize quickly that you have to do what you have to do in order to survive, and you don't really have a choice - especially when you aren't ready to have everything end before you're 40. I definitely had bad days, believe me, but I just tried really hard to make things as normal as possible whenever I could. I wore makeup to every treatment and doctor's visit, bought all kinds of cool scarves to wear instead of my wig...anything to make myself feel better. I also had an incredible support system that really helped me to make it through.
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