I Am Afraid

This is the third installment in our Fear of Recurrence series:

I am a breast cancer survivor.  Seven years out.  And I am afraid.  Really afraid that my breast cancer will return.  My body still has the battle scars of the cancer that ravaged me for one full year.  Worse though are the tears in my heart from dealing with the cancer.  Sometimes they take hold of me so tightly that I can hardly breathe.  I am afraid to tell my story because I do not want to think about it or feel it again.  Maybe though, in some small way, if I tell my story, the cancer will loose some of its grip on me.

The date was October 17, 2003.  Friday.  All day Jack and I sit by the phone waiting for it to ring to find out if the cancer tests were “positive.”   I could not imagine how I got to this point.  I was happy for the first time in my life.  I worked out 5 or 6 days a week, and felt (and looked!) great.  I was really into nutrition, mediation and everything healthy.  I liked my job.  I loved getting up every day to see what life offered.  

The doctors had promised to call me back before the weekend, but no one ever did.  So Jack urged me to call the on-staff radiologist, who pulled my scans and told me that they were “positive.”  At first I think that positive is a good thing because isn’t that the meaning of positive?   I could not get my arms around the fact that I was positive for breast cancer. I still can’t…

The cancer drama unfolded around me, but I felt that I was on the outside. I was watching those around me as they cried and told me how sorry they were.  How could they possibly understand that my whole world had just collapsed?  I had no idea of who to call or how to save my life.    

We were supposed to be in a wedding on October 31.  My nephew got married and it was supposed to be the happiest moment in their lives.  At the wedding, all I could think about was whether or not the cancer would kill me before I was ready.  That is when the fear first emerged.  That cancer could kill me.  For the first time in my life I realized that I was not in control. 

The following week Jack told me that I needed to tell my family.  When he called my younger sister, Nancy, her husband told us she was in a hospice.  She was dying from breast cancer… I could not understand that.  Why hadn’t she told me?

On November 5, we drove 300 miles to see my sister Nancy.  How do I tell her I have Stage 4 breast cancer and I too could be dying?  When I walked into Nancy’s hospice room, I did not recognize her.  I still have tears as I think about my beautiful sister who always had long pretty black hair and a wonderful smile.  Now she is ravaged by the cancer and all I can think about is how soon I may look like that too.   Nancy was always a fighter.  How come she couldn’t beat cancer?  

Friday, November 7, 2003.  I am in a hospital room getting ready for a mastectomy, soon to be followed by chemotherapy and radiation.  It is 9:29 a.m.  As I tell the doctors about my sister, anesthesia starts to take hold, and I no longer care about the cancer.  Later, I learn that Nancy passed away as I went through my surgery.  I knew in my heart that she was there guiding the doctors.  She was always good about giving advice!

During the following months, I see other women facing breast cancer.  I know who they are.  They wear wigs, or are bald.  They look pale and tired.  Soon my hair falls out from chemotherapy, and I cry.  My skin turns yellow and my fear is realized:  I look like “the cancer women.”  I am one of them.  I am afraid.

The time goes slowly.  I run from treatment to treatment.  One appointment to another.  I am so tired and in so much pain, I can’t think. What if all this ends in death?   What if the cancer returns and I have to go through this again?  Will they hire me back at my job?  What do I tell my co-workers to make them understand that I can’t do my job like before (I have chemo brain so badly that I can’t even balance my checkbook)?  How do I handle the stares and empty words?  I am afraid.

Now, it is seven years later.  I have gotten through much of the cancer nightmare, but I still suffer from anger and pain.  I have lymphedema and wear a sleeve.  The arthritis in my hands and feet has gotten worse from the anti-cancer drugs and I wear splints.  I try to exercise but it stirs up the lymphedema so I work with doctors to see if we can find a solution.  I finally gave up my dream to return to who I was.  I prayed, meditated, walked and did whatever else I could think of.  I wanted to be who I was before.  I am afraid.   I am afraid that I will loose more ground – more will be taken away from me.  So, maybe the cancer doesn’t return, but the treatment left side effects so severe, that they are slowly taking over my body:  the lymphedema, the arthritis, remnants of chemo brain, the toxins stored in my fat cells that I can’t seem to get rid of and more.

I am afraid of my anger.

I am afraid of the cancer.

I am afraid of cancer’s side effects.

I am afraid of dying from breast cancer like my sister Nancy.

I am afraid to live because cancer may catch me off guard like it did before….

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or on Facebook.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “I Am Afraid

  1. Hi and Thank You! Thank YOU for sharing your story. I like they way you went ahead and put it out there, all your fears, etc. I recently went through the breast cancer drama and am a 10 month survivor. I have a new lump I am having checked…but I’m afraid. You know. It’s good to write, to meditate and to talk …especially to others who “know!”

    Again, Thank you!

    Andi

  2. Hi there,

    If you follow the advice by Dr Jerry in this article I am sure all will be fine with someone who once had cancer or are having cancer (at your own choice of course) – http://www.cancernaturalcure.com/cure1.htm

    My boyfriend who is having stage 2 larynx cancer has followed Dr Jerry’s advice and in the last 5 months his tumour has reduced size from 3cm to 1cm (without chemo, he has turn his personal doctor down to go for chemo). God bless him with a speedy recovery & a long life…I want to marry him!

    Change your diet right now!

  3. Hi and thank you. I share your fear as do many other survivors I’m sure. I am about to reach the 1 year mark on April 28th. It has been very hard to face the fear and try to move beyond it. Although I am physically doing much better, I find the fear reaches out and grabbs you when you least expect it. Thank you for sharing your story. Big Hugs!

  4. Your story is so touching! I too am scared, I had stage IV Inflamatory Breast cancer and now 14 months cancer free now! I too have chemo brain, I use to be so organized and I had a slick memory, now I can barely balance appointments! I forget what I was going to say, I feel like my 63 year old father! I am 29 years old now, I was diagnosed at 27, with a 5 month daughter and a 2 year old daughter! I have a serious radation burn, that may never go away I found out at my last Doctors apt! Cancer is HELL, and it is hard to get away from once you have be touched by it, like we are tainted by it! But I do beleive the key to carrying on, is thinking positive and trying to move forward and do the things we need to do here, this is our TIME and maybe our second chance! Before cancer I always stressed about dumb sh@t and I got so worked up on a daily basis, and now, who cares, none of that matters! All that matters is that we are here, me for my children and you for something aswell! Focuss on your importance! Take care!

  5. I am so moved by all of your stories and by your honesty and openess about your fears. I feel like LBBC can do a great service just by letting you tell your stories and get out the message that life is different after treatment ends. I hope you will keep talking about this.

  6. I received an e-mail update from John Hopkins which speak the same lingo as Dr Jerry as I mentioned in my earlier post. I realised that many people out there ignore these advices and are not trying hard enough to cure themselves…

    Subject: LATEST CANCER INFO—-PLS PASS You may have read before but it’s good to be reminded and share with your loved ones again! AFTER YEARS OF TELLING PEOPLE CHEMOTHERAPY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TRY AND ELIMINATE CANCER, JOHNS HOPKINS IS FINALLY STARTING TO TELL YOU THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE WAY .. [Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins ] (Embedded image moved to file: pic11499.jpg) 1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size. 2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime. 3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors. (Embedded image moved to file: pic27774.jpg) 4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors. 5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system. 6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc. 7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs. 8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction. 9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications. 10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites. 11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply. WHAT CANCER CELLS FEED ON: a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal,Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt. (Embedded image moved to file: pic06379.jpg) b… Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved. c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer. d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells.� To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it. 12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.. (Embedded image moved to file: pic26141.jpg) 13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells. 14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells. 15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life. 16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells. (PLEASE FORWARD IT TO PEOPLE YOU CARE ABOUT) This is an article that should be sent to every one you care about.

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