Cut Loose

When I was going through treatments I went in weekly to have my blood drawn. They were checking my white blood cell count constantly. After chemo was finished, I still went in regularly to get my blood drawn.

Weekly.

Bi-weekly.

Monthly.

Every three months.

Every six months.

Once a year.

Once a year with my mammogram.

Each time the doctor told me I didn’t have to come back for longer period of time, I should have felt joy.

I didn’t.

I should have felt relief that I was healed.

I didn’t.

Was I cured?

Do you really ever say you are cured of cancer? There is no cure, so what do you say?

I don’t know.

Every time the distance between appointments was lengthened, I was scared.

What if it came back?

What if they thought they got it all but they didn’t and if I came back in three months it might be too late.

What if the next time they drew blood

the next time I had a mammogram

the next time I saw the doctor

What if …

I thought about the “what if’s” frequently during treatment and the first few years after. I went to see my oncologist for my yearly check-up last year and he told me he could cut me loose. I didn’t need to see him anymore. My BRAC genetic test for breast cancer was negative. The results of my oncotype test showed less than a 1% chance of recurrence. He felt comfortable not seeing me anymore.

I sat.

I didn’t breathe.

I didn’t blink.

I felt sick at my stomach.

It was irrational but I felt the same fear I felt when I was initially diagnosed.

He watched as I processed what he told me.

I didn’t speak. I experience fear each year when I go to see my oncologist but the visit had become my security blanket. Dr. Davidson had my back.

Cancer had been a part of my life since November 13, 2006. It will always be a part of me. Cancer will not define who I am but cancer changed me. It is hard for me to not look for the positives in all situations. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did not look for positives. As I moved through treatment, I had to be positive.

I looked at Dr. Davidson.

I am positive my cancer is gone. I was also positive I was not ready to be set free.

He smiled at me and said he would see me in a year.
I had breast cancer.

I don’t have it now.

Maybe next year, I’ll be ready to be cut loose.

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Sisterhood of Survivors

As I was getting ready to teach a beginner yoga class, a beautiful woman came in to take a class with her daughter and mother. Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate connection to him or her? I knew this woman was a breast cancer survivor because I had spoken to her mother, one of my students, about her previously. I knew immediately this woman understood what I had been through and I knew what she had been through.

We didn’t have to say a word.

 When you have something in common with another person you feel a connection. That can happen by going to the same school, growing up in the same town, finding out you both like animals or have the same hobbies. I’ve found it interesting that there is a whole sisterhood of breast cancer patients, survivors and the people in their lives that have been affected by breast cancer.

Cancer creates an immediate connection.

It is not the way I wanted to get to know others but there is a peculiar bond when meeting someone that has gone through what you have gone through. It is comforting to meet someone that understands what you can’t say out loud.

I found that out when I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. People started coming out of the woodwork letting me know that they knew someone that had been through breast cancer.   Acquaintances shared with me that they were survivors.   It was surprising how many people were touched in some way by breast cancer. It made me a uncomfortable yet at the same time it was reassuring

When I moved to Tennessee there was a lady I worked with that was a breast cancer survivor. She had been cancer free for over 20 years. When she found out I had been through breast cancer she said we were sisters. She said we had both gone through something hard and survived. She said cancer sucked but cancer couldn’t beat us. It was oddly soothing to have her be so blunt with me. I have been told often about women who lost their battle with breast cancer. I am always scared for myself when I hear a story of a friend/mother/sister who died after a reoccurrence of breast cancer. People love to share these stories more often than survivor stories. I suppose they want to share the memory of someone they loved with me. I understand that.

I used to keep my breast cancer story to myself. I don’t now. I found that people want to connect with someone that is a survivor. Women that have gone through breast cancer can’t express to others how it feels. It is hard to convey to someone else how it feels to have a part of your femininity turn on you.

They have felt what you felt.

They know the fear; the pain; the anguish; the nausea of chemotherapy; the burning of radiation and how it feels to look your own mortality in the eye.

Breast cancer survivors don’t’ have to tell each other how it felt to go through that – they know.

The connection is in the unspoken.