Today is the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis.
The past week was filled with anxiety approaching this day. Seeing memories pop up on Facebook, things I posted happily on Instagram and reminders of my pre-cancer life have been bittersweet. That girl is gone.
Knowing this day was coming up has been looming heavy on my heart. That day was so horrible, riddled with fear and truthfully, complete devastation. I’ll never forget hearing those words and my knees buckling as I fell to the floor of our bathroom. The panic was overwhelming. That night cancer barged back into my life and the greedy bitch stole even more than she already had. Unfortunately for her, I had other plans.
Want to know something really crazy? I’ve been out of treatment longer than I was in it. I was diagnosed, immediately started chemo, survived chemo and had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (my first major surgery btw). This was all within 6 months.
Then, I worked my ass off at physical therapy and regular therapy, had plastic surgeon appointments and endured expanders, which is a special kind of hell itself. I trained so hard to get my body healthy again. Earlier this year, I underwent my second major surgery including reconstruction and fat grafting, which is also a very special kind of hell.
And that doesn’t even include the overwhelming pressure of mental health, anxiety, body image issues, financial stress, loss of confidence and So. Much. More.
But, the cancer is gone. I’m better now, right?
Since then, I’ve been kind of spinning – stuck in a rut trying to figure out how it all fits back together. I’m trying to make sense of this balance of celebrating life but still being cautious. How much do I allow myself to relax? Some days I want so desperately to go back to one year ago, yesterday – when things were a little simpler. Not perfect, or easy… simpler.
No cancer monster creeping into my thoughts constantly, interrupting my meditation at yoga, my joy playing dinosaurs with Dane or my much needed and neglected time with my husband.
Sometimes I’m sitting at my house doing something perfectly normal like watching Casey read to Dane before bed… and it hits me like a truck: YOU HAD CANCER. Most of the time I acknowledge the thought, and let it pass. Sometimes I can’t focus on anything else.
Luckily, I have very incredible people in my life to push me and remind me of all the good. This week I had dinner with some of my Wisconsin Breasties – and I was reminded so strongly why I share my journey, the good and the bad parts. Some of these women are in active treatment, some are just a few months behind me but all of them have unique and moving stories to tell. It’s funny, walking out of there I felt so good, and also like I was this seasoned cancer veteran – finished with treatment, with hair and color in my cheeks again. I’m so proud to be a part of this community, and to spread awareness to all who will listen – in hopes of helping even just one person along the way.
So I guess this new year, starting today, I’m going into it with a thankful heart. I’m walking towards a future where maybe each day won’t be filled with quite as much worry and my confidence will grow little by little. I know for sure though, that I’ll keep sharing – even when I feel like it’s not worth it because I’ve learned that it is. When you’re living through trauma, there is nothing more meaningful than feeling like you’re not alone.
And don’t worry – I’ll be celebrating tonight. With my hubby and Billy Joel at Miller Park (and lots of adult beverages.) So cheers!