Cancer doesn't change who you are as a person. Rather, it makes you see the changes that you've made, knowingly or not, throughout your life, without realizing it. Having cancer doesn't necessarily make you a stronger person, it makes you realize your inner strength, which was already there. Let's give credit where credit is due, people, and the credit most definitely belongs to you. If cancer isn't something to blame, then it certainly isn't something to recognize as the reason for you being the person you are today. That's all you. That's a fact that should make you proud, and should help drive you to continue living your life the way YOU want to, not the way cancer thinks you should. What the cancer wants to do is out of your hands, but the rest of your life, is still firmly grasped by them, and you have more control than you realize.
I see myself as an optimistic person, so instead of focusing on what
cancer has taken away, I try to focus on what it has given me. I've
spoken to a lot of people who have been in my shoes and many of them
have told me how they now have a greater appreciation for life. They
don't take anything for granted. Life is short, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Awesome for them, but I didn't need to get cancer to make me feel this way.
A year before I was diagnosed I had a sort of revelation. One day I was
with a "friend" who took it upon herself to tell me the kind of person I was, and
everything that is wrong with me. I stopped her and said, point blank,
among other things, "I like myself." I was taken aback by that
statement. I've never said that to anyone before, because I never
realized it. I was always so busy trying to change myself into what I
thought I wanted to be, I never stopped to ponder the crazy notion
that, maybe I was okay, just as I was. It took me 29 years to come to
that moment, and it left me feeling happy, and peaceful, and satisfied
that I must be doing something right to be able to feel that way.
I went home and thought about it and realized that, not only did I like who I was, I also liked what I was doing, where I was living, and where my life seemed to be going. I was always a planner until I turned 25, when I moved to another state to go to graduate school. I did a complete 180 and instead of planning, started living my life one day at a time, taking the moments as they came, and embracing change, and I was a much happier person for it. I was fortunate to have made this change before my diagnosis, as it helped me cope better than I think I would have had I still been a planner. When you have cancer it helps to live your life by the "expect the unexpected" philosophy, because things can change in an instant. I'm living proof of that.
Many people who are diagnosed with cancer feel the need to make big changes in their life; a change of careers, going back to school, moving, etc. The only thing I wanted, was to go back to the way I was living my life before I was diagnosed with cancer. When I finished my treatment last year, I did just that. I got back to my "normal" routine, started going out with my friends on the weekends (and even, gasp, sometimes during the week), and started to feel like my old self again.
Then, things changed once again, when I learned that the cancer had spread to my sternum.
I learned very early on, that when you have inflammatory breast cancer, or any rare cancer for that matter, the same rules don't always apply as they may with other types of cancer. Because it is so rare, and there is very little research about it, all of us with inflammatory breast cancer are essentially guinea pigs. Just once, I would like my doctor to say, "here, take this pill, we know it will work". But that's not going to happen. Instead, it's trial and error, hoping that success comes more often than error, and understanding that success has many different interpretations in the cancer world.
After 27 rounds of radiation directly to my sternum, new scans show that the spot in my sternum appears to have grown. Whether this is treatment related, or the cancer is still spreading, we don't know. My doctors will just watch it. They'll also be watching the nodules that showed up in my lungs, as well as the spot on my femur, up near my hip. In three months I'll have new scans, and possibly a change in treatment.
No one ever really knows what to expect with breast cancer, any type,
or any cancer for that matter, but we keep living, experiencing, and enjoying life for
the crazy, unpredictable, terrible, wonderful, thing it is. All the while trying to remember, that we are amazing human beings, and always have been, and cancer can't change that.