The United Breast Cancer Foundation provides vital program services to thousands of women, men and children every year. Below is a message from one of our clients, Trish, sharing “17 Thoughts About Breast Cancer”. UBCF supported Trish with an Individual Grant in 2017 after being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that year. Trish worked through treatments, but after a few months, she could no longer work and had to move in with her mother in an attempt to save money. UBCF’s $2053 grant enabled Trish to take care of important bills and keep her vehicle insurance coverage.
Dear UBCF community,
A lady wrote “17 Thoughts About Breast Cancer” and I couldn’t have written it any better. With her permission, I’m sharing to educate! I tweaked her words a little to fit my situation exactly. I have been very blessed this past year, but it was the worst of my life in many ways, as was the latter part of 2016. This is a long read, but if you want to be educated about this journey, please take the time. I would appreciate it as well as others who have battled.
Before you read this please know that there may be a little too much information for some of you, but cancer isn’t pretty. I’m not looking for any words of wisdom, thoughts or prayers, just some understanding the next time you encounter someone who is currently battling breast cancer or who has in the past. It’s not something that simply “ends” when treatment ends.
17 thoughts about breast cancer from the worst year of my life : 2017
- Once you’re diagnosed with breast cancer the thought of it is always there, you’re never truly considered cured- just in remission; therefore, every new ache or pain can and will scare the crap out of you.
- The treatment for cancer is cruel and the side effects of said treatment can only be described as hell by most of us. The bone pain caused by your bone marrow trying to replenish itself is excruciating!
- Not everyone that goes through chemotherapy loses weight, as a matter of fact, quite a few of us gain weight. Lots of it! Just another blow to the ego!
- It may be “just hair” to a non-cancer warrior, but for us ladies losing it can be one of the hardest parts of this journey through hell. Most everything else we can disguise quite easily by stuffing our bra or applying makeup, but even the best wig can be noticed if the wind blows to hard or someone sees it too close up. Not to mention wigs are itchy and uncomfortable, not to mention the extra misery during hot flashes!
- Most people know that the chemotherapy used for most breast cancers can make us lose our hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, but did you know that it can cause us to lose our fingernails and toenails. (Luckily I only lost 3 or 4).
- Neuropathy- oh how I hate thee! It is the single most hellish left over side effect from chemo. Every step feels like I am stepping on hot needles and I’ve had a couple of falls because it feels like you’re walking around with your feet “asleep”. The doctors haven’t given me much hope for it to every go away either.
- Joint pain caused by the AI meds (hormone blocker meds) makes you want to scream every time you go to stand. Some days I wonder if I will ever feel “somewhat” normal again. I have to take it for ten years. Yes 10!
- Cytoxan and Adriamycin IV Chemotherapy (rightfully nicknamed the red devil) are cruel to you and your bladder. I very quickly learned not to leave home without a change of clothes. Your bladder can and will decide to empty itself whenever and wherever it pleases. Talk about embarrassing and a big ole kick to your ego! You may be thinking TMI but education is key for you to be a good friend to me and my fellow thrivers/survivors.
- Breast cancer that is “hormone fed” can steal everything from a woman that makes her a woman: her reproductive organs, her breasts, her hair, her libido. If it’s a “woman thing” you can bet that it’s affected in some way.
- I always thought that the tumors were what caused pain, the treatments themselves cause much of the pain even when there’s no evidence of disease in the body.
- The combination of pain and humiliation that a mastectomy or reconstruction can cause is probably more than you can imagine. Warning another TMI moment: I thought I was going to have to ask my husband to “help” me in the bathroom this morning. Thankfully I figured it out myself, but oh my goodness I never knew that wiping my rear end could hurt so bad!
- I’ve learned who our true friends are. My husband would do anything for anyone and I have always been willing to help anyone that needed it. Needless to say there are only a few people that we don’t share DNA with that we can rely on.
- Cancer can financially devastate you very quickly. Not all cancers qualify for disability benefits. Even with good insurance $20 copays and medication copays of $200+ a month can put you in one hell of a bind financially very quickly. You have to believe that God would provide in some way.
- Radiation causes horrible, horrible burns that most couldn’t imagine because we don’t show them to you because we don’t want you to see the mess of scars our breasts have now become. I finished radiation months ago and I still have an area that is sensitive and itches like crazy!
- My husband deserves to win the lottery or a gold medal or both! The Good Lord knows he got the shaft in the “in sickness and in health” part of our vows.
- I am not a “fighter, strong, resilient, or a hero”. Those people chose to go into a bad place for the better good. “Desperate” would be a better description. I am desperate to live to see my youngest step daughter get married and meet all of my future grandchildren. Honestly, no one wants to hear those words from anyone. Telling us we’re strong or that God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors just makes most of us feel like failures. It makes us feel that God is punishing us- so not fair!
- Chemo brain is real. I forget things I would have never forgotten before. Be patient with us. It’s not our fault and we some get frustrated and cry because we know we are different than before.
Last but not least: when someone says “look on the bright side, you get new boobs” it’s not funny and it makes most of us want to throat punch you with what little bit of energy our battle has left us with. Oh, and believe me even with the best reconstruction by the best plastic surgeon, the reconstructed breasts we are left with are nothing like someone that has bad a boob job. Most of the time when I do say it, it’s because I know that YOU are uncomfortable and I don’t want you to feel that way. Those with boob jobs still have sensation in their breasts and I have NONE. They don’t have to worry about lymphedema (miserable look it up), and best of all they still have the nipples that God gave them, not tattoos or an implant under the skin that has no sensation.
If you’ve taken the time to read through all of this, thank you. Please know that I have struggled with sharing these feeling with anyone outside of a select few family members. I see so many women posting in my Facebook support groups saying that no one understands, and you truly can’t unless you’ve been there, but how can we expect others to understand if we don’t educate them?
My prayer through this journey is that God will allow me to learn the things that I need to in order to be a better person.
Goodbye 2017. You have been the worst year of my life! Welcome 2018!