October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come to an end, but for me, every month is a time to celebrate and raise awareness about this devastating disease.
My fight against breast cancer began in 2003 during the holiday season. Amidst the hustle, bustle and shouts of "Merry Christmas," it was difficult to be cheerful, to say the least.
I was born and raised in the South, so I usually cook a huge dinner every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most years, I would have extra food so that people who didn't have anywhere else to go could come over, but 2003 was different. The cancer treatments had made me too weak to cook and we barely had enough dinner for my small family. That year, my son and daughter volunteered to cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. "Sit down and just tell us what to do," they said. "We'll cook this year."
It is extremely difficult to have cancer during the holidays. I remember having very little energy, very many financial challenges and struggling with emotional ups and downs. My world was spinning, but a New Year was approaching. I knew that I had more treatment ahead of me, so I decided to take one day at a time.
Breast cancer was the greatest challenge of my life and I truly didn't know if I would be able to get past it. But here I am. God allowed me to live. During all twelve months of the year, it's important to me to let others know that no matter how big or bad a giantlike cancer is, God will send a David to appear in your life. David may seem small or insignificant, but he has the power of a lion to knock a giant to its knees.
When I won my battle against cancer I wanted to inspire others, just like other breast cancer survivors had helped me. I began volunteering with Susan G. Komen in my hometown of Orange County, California.
Along with being a breast cancer survivor and a volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, I am also the first-time author of A Cancer Memoir. In deciding to write this book, I knew that I would have to reveal a personal side of myself and tell parts of my life that I haven't told anyone before. I decided that it was time to be open and honest and allow others to read about the battles I have navigated through during my life thus far. Here is some of my story.
The Portocast in my shoulder, along with the radiation tattoo, my discolored chest, and of course, my left breast, was a kind of badge of my journey.
They were normal to me. But the doctor said I should have the Portocast removed. I was supposed to have gotten it out four years earlier, right after chemo. I always thought that if the cancer returned, at least I'd be ready for chemo again.
I was back at the office a few days later being prepped to have it taken out. After all of the time that had passed, this minor procedure was no big deal. The significance of what was happening did not sink in until the device was out and I was in my car, on my way back home. At a stoplight a few blocks away from the office, a wonderful thought came to me. Smiling, I said to myself, "I am a cancer survivor."*
*Excerpted from A Cancer Memoir by Patsy Bates