April 8 marked the one-year anniversary of the double mastectomy that erased cancer from my body.
I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around it being a whole year. Because I’m busy, I didn’t do anything spectacular on this anniversary, but it sure made me reflect.
I have cerebral palsy, arthritis, and hiatal hernia, have had two C-sections and survived an abusive marriage. But nothing was more terrifying than dealing with breast cancer.
A few months before my diagnosis, my husband and I were watching a television series “Chasing Life,” about a young woman diagnosed with cancer. We watched it religiously and often discussed our reactions to the disease. Nothing prepares you for a cancer diagnosis, but the show helped keep me from feeling so alone or scared. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after two seasons.
Putting my feelings into words for a double-mastectomy anniversary isn’t easy. I have a mixture of emotions. I’m truly happy I’m alive. Unfortunately, too many women and men fail to survive breast cancer. To know I’m still breathing, can see a sunrise and sunset, hold my husband’s hand ,and see my children grow feels absolutely amazing. I don’t want to waste time, because I know how quickly it runs out.
My life has changed since the double mastectomy. My chest will never feel the same. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and I don’t want to lie on my stomach because I know what I’m lying on. I am less tolerant of drama and procrastination. Drama, gossip, and all-round nonsense are time wasters.
I have become more of a workaholic. It’s not that new for me, but it’s more intense. From the time I wake up until I lie down at night, I’m usually working on something. Unless of course, I’m busy being with my family.
I want to make a mark on the world, for the better. My husband has to sit me down in my recliner and have me watch television with him to relax, or take me on a date. My mind is always thinking, planning, wanting to help, to do more.
Being with my children has a brand-new perspective. It tears me up knowing how different their year would have been if I hadn’t survived. I know they would have become strong, smart, caring and kind adults. But losing a mother at any age is hard — especially at a young age. I play with them as much as possible, memorize their voices, capture the moments, and teach them as much as I can to try to help them through life. I tell them I love them a million times a day.
I’m a different wife than last year. Being a survivor of an abusive marriage makes you question how someone can truly love you, and be committed to you for always and ever. But my fears began easing when I thought of my husband’s love and support.
He slept in a hospital chair for three days, leaving my side only 20 minutes the entire time. He let me talk, cry, change and adapt. He tells me I’m beautiful, especially when I look sad. Knowing he survived breast cancer with me tells me we can handle anything. I can return my love easily because I know it’s appreciated.
As I enter my second year as a breast cancer survivor, I pray that I keep appreciating the little things and stay busy. We have limited time on Earth, and it shouldn’t be wasted. I want to accomplish, learn and embrace anything and everything I can, while I can.
Whether you’re approaching an anniversary or beginning a journey, remember to live life to the fullest.
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