Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Ten Years!


This morning I woke up at 3:00 A.M. As I crawled out of bed, I remembered today was a milestone for me. 10 years ago, on June 5, I was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. On July 9, 10 years ago, I gave the surgeon permission to remove that cancer from my body. I had no idea what I was doing. All I could go on was her wisdom and expertise. Though I hadn't known her long, I trusted her. 

I'd been referred to Dr. Sroka after visiting a local OB/GYN. I'd visited that doc to confirm what I already knew in my heart - that I had cancer. I'm so thankful she sent me to Dr. Sroka. I'd never met a doctor like her before. 

At my first visit with Dr. S, I had to wait almost an hour for her to come into the room. When she came in, she apologized profusely and told me, even though it was 5:00 P.M., she was going to give me all the time I needed and deserved.I was impressed. 

She sat with me for over 2 hours going over the type cancer I had, how and where it was located in my body, and what her plan was to help me live as long as possible. I listened carefully as she presented options and knew I'd need to pick the most drastic one if I wanted to live. Before seeing the OB/GYN, I'd done my research.

I chose bilateral mastectomies. It would be the best way to get rid of all the cancer, but as Dr. S explained, I wouldn't know how extensive the cancer had spread until my lymph nodes were tested, too. She ended up taking out 6. 4 in the right arm and 2 in the left. 

She recommended I do chemotherapy, radiation, and antihormone therapy but said it was all up to me. I had to decide what was best for my body. 

Everyone I'd ever known who'd done chemo didn't fare well and had ultimately either died or suffered terribly for the rest of their lives with one complication or another from the treatment. I didn't want to go through that so I opted out but did agree to the radiation.

I went through 28 rounds of radiation. They had originally planned for me to do 33 with 2 extra "BOOST SESSIONS."  Halfway through treatment, I was severely burned on the right side of my chest, neck, and had damage to my lung so the radiologist made me stop for several weeks. At that time, I became extremely fatigued. I found out, when I returned for my sessions, that was normal. 

I could go on and on about those early days of treatment, how I felt, what I experienced, etc., but I won't. First of all, I don't want to relive it and second, it would take days to complete this post so I'll return to my thoughts at 3:00 A.M. this morning. 

As I fumbled through our dark bedroom toward the bathroom, I thanked God for the beautiful gift of this day. He didn't have to give me another day of life, but I was so grateful He had. 

When I got back in bed, I lay there thinking. I realized there had been many things I'd taken for granted over the past 10 years and many things I'd missed. I promised God I'd never take another day for granted again. I'd be thankful for each sunrise and sunset. I'd celebrate everything in between. 

I still don't know why He's allowed me to live this long post diagnosis, but I'm very, very thankful. I still have issues that remind me of all I went through back then. I have lymphedema in both arms which causes swelling, heaviness, and uncomfortableness. The anterior of my right lung is damaged from radiation causing major problems when I get an upper respiratory infection, I still deal with body image issues, and a host of other maladies, but those are small in the grand scheme of things. 

If I'd known back then what I know now, I think I'd have still made the same decisions regarding treatment. I may have opted for post surgical reconstruction, but I may not have. 

Through the past 10 years, I will say I know what's gotten me through each day - my faith. Without it, I wouldn't have survived this long. I don't know how people survive cancer or any debilitating disease without Jesus. And I'm so thankful He's never tired of listening to my complaints, my heartbreaks, my sadness, my despair, and my confusion over His choice to let me go through this huge trial. 

All I can say is I know He handpicked cancer for me and if He picked it, how can I dispute His choice knowing that He uses ALL things together for my good? (Romans 8:28 says "All things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.")

I'm alive and I'm thankful. For the rest of my life, I'll be praising Him and telling about His great mercy and grace toward me. I'm still working on learning to thrive. It's hard but I'm taking it one day at a time. I think He understands and appreciates my efforts. Here's to starting year 11! And who knows how many He'll give me after that! A cancer diagnosis isn't necessarily a death sentence and I'm proof of that!

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