Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

In this blog, I decided to share a little more about my personal experience. On my lifestyle tab, I noted that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the Spring of 2022. Of course, cancer covers a wide breadth of illnesses. And even specific to breast cancer, there is a wide variety of treatment. But I wanted to share more details about my experience with being diagnosed with breast cancer on my blog.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

In late April 2022, I noticed a lump in my left breast. I am usually very consistent with scheduling all my yearly doctors’ appointments. So, when I noticed the mass, I had already had my appointment with my ob/gyn scheduled for May. By the time the appointment rolled around, I noticed that the mass had increased in size. I told my doctor about it and after examining the mass, she confirmed, and scheduled, a mammogram and ultrasound. Both tests confirmed this mass, so an MRI was then scheduled. Following the MRI – all results demonstrated that I had two masses in the same left breast.

Consequently, I was sent for a biopsy on June 7th, and by the next day, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. If you’re wondering why stage II, this was because the mass that I had actually found was the cancer spreading to my lymph nodes under my left arm. Hence, the cancer had already begun spreading from the original tumor which was much deeper inside my breast.

Treatment Process

So, from my ob/gyn, following the results of the mammogram, ultrasound, and MRI, I was referred to a breast surgeon and specialist. Following the positive/malignant results from the biopsy, I was referred to an oncologist who would treat the cancer. I was scheduled to, and underwent, 6 months of chemotherapy – 16 rounds. By God’s grace, I started August 2022 and completed February 2023. I later had surgery in April 2023, the results of which showed a complete response to chemotherapy. Following my surgery, I was pronounced cancer free in May 2023.

Living with a Cancer Diagnosis

So, as you can see it’s been a rough year. I’m just coming up on the 1-year diagnosis but clearly, it’s been a year of living with cancer within my body. So, this is all fresh. I’m still processing what it meant to live with cancer for a year. And, even now, I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I no longer have cancer.

At some point, I’ll probably write about this topic again, but I’ll be doing a lot of my emotional, mental, and spiritual work in private, but I wanted to share a few things that I learned while living with a cancer diagnosis. This list is not exhaustive as I’m sure it will change as I continue to process my emotions and make peace with this past year.

  • The first thing is definitely your mortality. Hearing those words brings up any, and every feeling, you have about death and beyond. You begin to question your life choices, think about things you wish you had already done, wonder if you should begin mourning the things you’re not sure you’ll get to do, and if you have regrets -well those way heavily on you.
  • Next, you are simply just surviving. Your life becomes a whirlwind as you move from doctor appointments to treatments. And you are suddenly surrounded by people everywhere you go. If you’re lucky, many of these people are patient and caring. I was grateful for the doctors, nurses, and team members that were involved in my care. I was truly blessed with them.
  • Depending on the stage of your cancer, the type of your cancer, the treatment schedule you’re given, the way you will survive looks different. Dealing with crises have a way of bringing out your true nature. For example, if you quickly feel overwhelmed or stressed when things aren’t going your way or how you planned, you will be filled with anxiety. If you fall apart easily during stress or if you are the type of person that compartmentalizes when you get overwhelmed, all these things will be on display during this time.
  • Relationships will be tested. From the relationship with your partner or closest relative/parent, to the relationship with yourself, to the relationship with your friends, all of them will be tested. You will see how others deal with severe stress very quickly. Some will make your illness about them, some will disappear. Sometimes, the people you thought would be the ones you would rely on the most may not be the ones who show up the most for you. Cancer becomes an interesting filter for relationships.
  • Fifth, you also learn so much about yourself. You will learn about the things you truly value. You will find that you will need to be your biggest advocate. You may find that the things that used to matter before, now have very little value. You’ll find that you may even want to uproot your life and make all kinds of changes to align your new values to your physical life.
  • And sixth, my treatment was very severe because of the aggressiveness of the cancer type that I had – triple negative. As I said earlier, when you’re living with cancer, you’re in survival mode. You are just doing what you need to do to get through each round of treatment, each new cycle, an hour of a day, a day, a week. When the treatment begins to wind down, you start to feel a little lost. You may have known who you were before you got sick, but during the shuffle of treatment-ordered-chaos, you don’t quite know yourself anymore, and after treatment, you now have to redefine yourself. You must get to know who you are because this experience is unlike anything else in the world. And you can’t go back to who you were before. And the people around you may feel that you survived, and life can go back to what it was. But you know, deep down, that that is as far from the truth as it can get.
  • Next, there are so many points of this treatment, you feel like your body has betrayed you. You may feel like you have let your loved ones down. You may feel like why me? How could this have happened to me? You may feel like why did I get this cancer and not that cancer? The emotional rollercoaster is extensive and emotionally exhausting. But it is so important to let yourself feel all the emotions you experience because that’s the only way that you will get through it and heal.
  • Lastly, if you make it through the treatment and there is hope for life after cancer, picking up the pieces of your life is not easy. Cancer is such a subjective experience! No one can fully prepare you for how your body will recover from the treatment. And though we’d like it to be a short process, just as the testing, diagnosis, and treatment took time, so will the recovery and rebuilding take time.

In Closing

These are just some of my thoughts about living with cancer. Being diagnosed with cancer gave me a unique experience that I am still working to adjust to. Now being pronounced cancer free, I’m just beginning the process of assimilating this past year into the whole of my life. For one thing, I do not want cancer to be the defining story of my life. It is an essential part of my story, but I refuse to allow it to become the only important thing about my life.

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