When bone cancer appeared in my life at 21, I had no idea the road it would lead me on, the people I would meet, adventures I would experience, opportunities that would appear, courage I would find or the woman I would be become. I am grateful for all of those moments that led me to today, the woman I am right now. And now that the road has led to yet another experience, I am ready to face and embrace it. So here I go…..
Right before Christmas I went in for a routine mammogram. My gynecologist is an advocate for 3D mammograms (me too). It is not unusual for me to be called back for an ultrasound of my breasts due to dense tissue, a few benign cysts and scar tissue from a port from chemo. That happened. Then I received a call that a spot was deemed inconclusive and a needle biopsy was recommended. I still wasn’t too worried. As a cancer survivor, my doctors often take extra precaution and follow up with me, which I truly appreciate. A few days after the biopsy, I received the call that the spot revealed breast cancer.
I was, of course, stunned and anxious. It felt surreal, like this wasn’t happening. I was also admittedly annoyed. It’s my third separate cancer diagnosis. I’m a big advocate for “one and done,” meaning you should only get one cancer diagnosis and be done. I’m clearly still trying to pass this idea, lol.
I met with my breast surgeon last week. I was so relieved meeting her. Her practice’s philosophy is least aggressive treatment, best outcomes, which completely aligns with mine. She’s smart, kind and made me smile so often. She provided tons of info and I asked hundreds of questions. The good news is that the breast cancer appeared at an early stage, in fact the tumor is small enough that the size doesn’t always appear in a mammogram. I need a few more tests but at this point, it appears I will undergo a lumpectomy and radiation. I cried of tears of relief at this point as I know it could be much worse so I am grateful for any and all good news.
I’ve been working on wrapping my mind around this so it doesn’t get stuck in my thoughts or emotions and become the driving force. I still have a life, job, friends, activities, advocacy, plans. A friend pointed out a great way of talking about this – ‘cancer showed up, I cleared it.” This acknowledges the disease appeared in my life, but doesn’t it give it the solid space of saying “I have cancer.” It puts me in the mindset that it’s already gone, not allowing it to take up space in my mind and emotions. Positive thinking has been my mantra and lessons the past few years and it truly helps me embrace what appears in my life. I often ask myself as I face things – “what else is possible?” It allows me to turn problems and challenges into opportunities and possibilities, allowing me to feel more confident and calmer.
I try to be real on this blog so know that while I feel positive about this new journey, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had emotions related to this. Of course, I have. This is my third diagnosis so my emotions and thoughts now are a bit different than hearing the first time. Knowing cancer showed up is…..well, it’s difficult to describe the whirlwind of emotions. I’ve cried, walked for miles, journaled, biked, meditated and more to manage my emotions. This diagnosis came out of nowhere for me. I experienced knee pain for many months with bone cancer and noticed a changing mole with melanoma. Nothing with this one, although my surgeon said I would not have with the small size. I also feel at my strongest physically, mentally and emotionally than I have in years, maybe this life. That means I’m planning to kick a$$ through this. I’m more impatient at the potential of pausing or rearranging things for this, but I’m ready to get it done and move forward.
I also have been overwhelmed with gratitude (not a complaint, haha). I feel gratitude every day at being alive and living my life, being able to make choices that hopefully lead me to happiness, adventures and valuable lessons. I am grateful for the family and friends who step up with support and love throughout my life, especially the past few weeks. I’m grateful for the care team that continues to show up in my life, managing my care with kindness, brilliance and focus as they keep me healthy. And I feel such gratitude and blessings that the tumor appeared in my mammogram when this size sometimes does not. My heart feels like it’s overflowing with gratitude and love.
If anything, this news has reinforced my commitment and passion to advocate for cancer research and access to preventive care. Many of you know my involvement with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, LIVESTRONG and others to work on keeping the fight against cancer a priority. I promise that this is my priority too. I shared in a post last fall the impact that research had on saving my life and leg during bone cancer, again when melanoma appeared and now again through a mammogram and new treatment options, not to mention my sister’s early catch of melanoma and the precious years we had with my dad before his death from multiple myeloma. I’ve committed to these organizations since my first diagnosis and my commitment and passion is even stronger now to make a difference, hopefully ensuring others won’t hear those fateful words and take this road (click on the links above to join in our fight or contact me for more info).
I started this blog to share the beauty of life after cancer. That’s still what this blog will focus on. I’m still biking, hiking, traveling and playing. I hope sharing my journey will help fellow cancer survivors and many others look at life as full of fun, love, laughter, possibilities. I challenge you to look around – at your environment, the people you surround yourself with, the life you’re choosing, yourself – and find one beautiful thing in your life, then focus on ensuring there are so many more in your everyday life. Do not settle. Do not let the possibility of love and happiness pass you by. Remember that we all have choice in how we live our lives.
I’m facing this as I do every day – I choose to live. I choose to embrace each day, smile as much as I can and open my arms to possibilities. What will you choose?
Thanks for reading this far. I hope you’ll continue to join me at Heather’s Hangout (feel free to subscribe via the box on the right side).