Without questioning, when going through a serious illness, you learn to know what faith truly is; along with finding the true meaning of beauty and how you really feel about yourself. I know this all too well, because I’ve experienced many trials and tribulations in my life. Through it all I gained my strength and more confidence in myself. My self-esteem came back with full force and I was loving myself all over again. I had a new beginning, all on my own.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2001/2002. I was then diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had no true symptoms except for a little soreness in my breast, which at the time I wrote off as regular soreness during menstrual cycles. I truly began getting symptoms after I went to see my gynecologist due to hot flashes. I had no idea that visit would change my life. Looking back it was for the better, because I was able to get my cancer caught at an early stage.
My gynecologist placed me on a form of estrogen. After a few weeks, my breast pain got worse. I got a lot of advice from others that the pain in my breast was normal and I just needed to get use to the estrogen pills, and once I did the pain would subside. That didn’t happen. The pain got worse and I noticed a hard boil or cyst had developed in my breast. I found out later, the cyst was already there and the estrogen caused it to grow faster. In high school, I was diagnosed with cystic fibroid of the breast, which may develop cysts in your breast every now and then. After I went back and forth to my gynecologist, he finally ordered a mammogram, but the test came back negative for cancer, so I went on with my life and tried not to worry.
That only lasted a couple of weeks because the pain was getting worse and the cyst was getting larger. At the time, I had a gut feeling there was more to this pain than the doctor was saying. You really know your own body and most of the time, when you think or feel that something is wrong, it usually is. I went back to my doctor because I wanted more tests done. He ordered an ultrasound, and that’s when they found my cancer. The doctor told me that the estrogen didn’t cause my cancer; the cancer was already there. If it hadn’t grown, I possibly wouldn’t have found my cancer until a year or two later; where it possibly could have spread even worse. I was kind of upset with my doctor because he wanted to wait. He kept saying there wasn’t anything really wrong and kept blaming it on the pills; but I knew better. During my surgery, I had up to 16 lymph nodes removed. I was lucky enough to not have any type of chemo or radiation, but I did have a mastectomy.
When I was diagnosed with colon cancer, again I didn’t really know for sure it was cancer. I blamed the pain I was experiencing on constipation. For a few months I would see a little blood on my toilet paper, but I thought that my hemorrhoids were acting up. I had some constipation at times with my bowel movements, so I ignored it. One day the constipation had gotten so bad that as I was trying to pass a bowel movement, I was holding onto my towel rack and broke it. That woke me up. There’s no way I should have to hold on to a rack so hard for a bowel movement that it would break.
I knew again in my gut that I had an issue. I was hoping it was something else, not something as serious as cancer, because I didn’t want to believe that it was possible for me to have cancer again. It just couldn’t be true, but it was. After my colonoscopy, it was determined that I had stage III colon cancer. Of course I was hurt and upset again, but for some reason, I wasn’t upset as I was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At this moment, and since my cancers are long out of the way, I’m feeling better. Not 100 percent there yet, but I’m doing pretty good. I do live with some aftermath/complications stemming from the cancer diagnoses, but it’s nothing compared to having and going through the horrific agony of cancer. I can deal with the complications. The thing is, you’re never really 100 percent after cancer. It changes you in many ways; some good, some bad. I let the changes I endured stir me in a good direction. I use my experience with cancer, through the pain and all, to share the joy I have now with others; to give hope and possibly inspire.
I couldn’t have gotten through any of it, without my oldest sister, daughter, and grandkids. I look back at when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, right after learning the news of it, I didn’t go straight home. I drove around for hours, not knowing where I was going. I just wanted to get all my crying out before heading home to give the news to my daughter. She’s my only child. She took it pretty well, even though I knew in the back of her mind, she’s thinking that she may be losing her only parent. But I reassured her right away, that my cancer was early and that I was going to be okay. My oldest sister, would help in talking with me about how I felt. She was my praying partner. Someone, I feel, everyone needs at times like these.
I truly feel that I was meant to be here, not only for my child, but for my grandkids. I was supposed to be here to see them come into this world; I had a purpose. I know it in my heart, I survived for them. I’m here for them.
I’ve come to realize that even going through such a dark time in my life, I still have a life to live, and I’m going to live it to the fullest. When I think of the “gift of life” that was given to me twice over, I knew that I would develop and gain strength through all my experiences. I would never say having or going through cancer was a gift. Surviving it and receiving a second and third chance on life is the gift. Yet through it all, I’m still me. I didn’t allow the disease to take away who I am, or what I stand for. Each passing day I’m allowed to open my eyes. The days are brighter, because I’m able to see and appreciate it that much more. Just because I had cancer, doesn’t mean the cancer had me.