By Darci L. Graves, MPP, Health Power Editor
Breast Cancer Diary Day 161 – Let Me Sum Up!
Today I finished treatment 12 out of 16 or 75% of my chemo regimen, which also means I’ve completed 16 weeks of chemo overall. Only 4 more to go.
It got me thinking about how far I/we have come. (I’m also doing this for a cross-post or two so this lets me sum up the 6 months).
(cue the *flashback* music))
In June of 2013, I turned 39 years old. I was having a pretty good year. Work was good. Dog was good. Spending time with my niece was great. And so on and so forth. That same month I noticed a lump in my right breast, but it didn’t feel the way they say that cancer lumps will feel. And I know the drill. My mom, two aunts and at least three second-cousins are all breast cancer survivors.
I call my site EducatorAdvocatePatient – because those are currently three key ways I identify myself. I educate or develop educational tools/materials for a wide range of organizations and individuals. What I teach primarily centers on improving the cultural and linguistic competency of a system, practice or set of behaviors/beliefs/etc. In simpler terms, it’s helping to teach folks to play well with others regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, spirituality, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, ability or disability, etc. etc. etc. I advocate for everyone to have access to the things that make life livable – – the basics – – health, safety, clean water, nutritious food, the things that so many of us take for granted. Another version of my bio reads like this – social activist, educator and lifelong student, soon to be cancer survivor, lover of art and dogs, mentor, satirist, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, friend, and hopeful humanitarian.
In August, I finally found and went and saw a new gynecologist. She confirmed the lump. She too thought it was likely benign. But given the givens, we determined that a diagnostic mammogram was the next step. This is what I consider (and subsequently call) Day 1.
On Day 5, I had my diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.
On Day 7, I learned I had cancer and I added patient to my bio (and my url).
I am beyond blessed that I know more or less the journey and my outcome. My mom is a 23+ year survivor, and an aunt 37+years. I have no doubt that I can beat this. I also have no doubt that parts of this journey are going to suck.
On Day 9, I wrote a To Do list for my journey. (1) get healthy, (2) stay positive, (3) hug often, (4) grow an army of supporters, (5) figure out how to share my lessons learned, (6) remain present, (7) honor the process and (8) laugh whenever possible.
On Day 20, I met with my surgeon who diagnosed Stage 2, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma of the Breast and it appears to be aggressive. It is also triple negative cancer which has implications for follow up treatment options. I have made the decision to get a double mastectomy and pursue aggressive treatment.
On Day 29, I had surgery and spent two nights in the hospital.
On Day 36, I found out I’m actually Stage 1.
On Day 42, I met with the oncologist and developed my chemo plan.
On Day 49, my surgery drains came out after I got stuck because of a Presidential motorcade.
On Day 55, I started chemotherapy and went public-public with my diagnosis (I made a video, it’s worth watching).
On Day 74, I cut off all my hair.
On Day 102, my dear, sweet dog and ever-present furry friend Tessa said goodbye. (This by far was the worst day of my journey thus far. I’ve never cried until I vomited this day. She stayed as long as she could, but she was an amazing dog. While I still mourn her, I have begun the process of finding a new furry friend).
On Day 106, I began the practice of FALLING UP and remembering resilience.
On Day 134, I wrote a manifesto about what I want my post-cancer life to look like.
On Day 144, I returned to the office part-time. I had been working from home with the occasional office visit since the surgery. With recovery and a weakened immune system, rest and remaining home was the best choice for me.
On Day 161, I finished 75% of my chemotherapy and began writing this blog entry.
On Day 190, (knock on wood) I will wake up and I will have finished my last chemo treatment.
Every single day of this journey has had ups and downs. One of the biggest ups is all of you out there reading these entries, sending me vibes and cards and love and prayers and care packages and visit and a bouquet of unicorns (yea, it’s a real thing Day 118) and dozens of packages wrapped in Justin Bieber holiday paper.
While I know I **could**, I wouldn’t want to do this without you all.
You all have kept me buoyed. You have kept me sane.
I am going to have to use a thesaurus to find new words for grateful, humbled and overwhelmed.
I think that is my greatest lesson learned. Share your news. Let your friends and family help hold you up. If they aren’t able to help, find a support group (virtual or in-person). The most important take away is you are not alone and whatever the journey looks like and when and wherever it ends, we should all go through this together.
I’m sure there are more lessons learned that I planned on sharing here, but they will have to wait for another post.
But, let me remind you of the benefits of:
If there is a question I can answer or an insight I can share, please let me, Darci, know at Health Power through firstname.lastname@example.org
And, Remember the Health Power Motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!®