THE IMPORTANCE OF A MAMMOGRAM

How many of you women put off a mammogram? I totally get it. The test can be uncomfortable. No one wants a stranger touching her breasts and smashing them into a machine. It’s no fun, but did you know about 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.4%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime?  (From Breastcancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics). Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women, and if caught early, is the most treatable. If left untreated, it can be deadly. There is a chance you’ll never get cancer, but why play with the risk? Aren’t your health, quality of life, and future important? Aren’t you important?

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When I got diagnosed with breast cancer, many of my friends and even customers I wait on told me they’ve never had a mammogram. I asked my friends “Why not?” One said she has enough health problems to have to worry about, another one stated she doesn’t want to know, and another told me she doesn’t have the time. I was stunned. I figured everyone automatically got the test done once she turns 40. I got mine done without hesitation once I turned of age. My mom told me how uncomfortable it would be and she was right. But I’m glad I continued to get my mammograms, because that’s how my cancer was detected.

I performed self-exams before getting my yearly tests, but never felt anything. Even after I was diagnosed, I felt my breast to see if somehow I missed the mass, but I still felt nothing. When I met with the surgeon, he performed an exam and told me he couldn’t feel it because the mass was hidden under tissue and fat. The only way the cancer could be found was by a mammogram.

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I started thinking, what would have happened if I was one of those people who never got a mammogram? How badly would my cancer have spread? The type of cancer I had was spread by hormones like estrogen. I’m only 44. Not menopausal yet. I’m still young. If I didn’t get that uncomfortable, test my hormones would have spread it throughout my body and could have led to an early death, but since I got a mammogram, the cancer was caught in the early stages. I don’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation. Far as I’m concerned that awful test saved my life.

Yes, I choose to get a bilateral mastectomy because I have the BRCA 2 gene, but that was a decision I made to prevent myself from getting any more cancers. The BRCA gene mutation causes breast, ovarian, and skin cancer. I wanted this to be my last struggle with breast cancer. I want to protect myself from getting a more serious cancer. I want to stand at my husband’s side for many years and I want to watch my nieces and nephews and great nieces grow up.

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If you have a chance to try and protect yourself from getting a disease that could lead you to a miserable death, wouldn’t you take it? Getting a yearly mammogram is one of the things you can do to keep you from dying miserably. I’ve talked to people who had stage 3 and 4 breast cancer and had it treated and are living happily cancer free. Some of them found a mass on their own and many had that yearly mammogram. Don’t play with your health; get that uncomfortable test done. Chances are you may never get cancer, but remember 1 in 8 do get cancer. What if you’re the 1? Wouldn’t you want to catch it early and live a happy life after treatment?

I think knowing is better than not knowing what’s going on in your body. There is always time to take care of yourself for you and your family. If you already have health problems, wouldn’t you also want to catch this one before it ends up being your deadliest health problem? I myself have struggled with health problems. Just last year I had a detached tendon repaired in my ankle. In the past six years I’ve had a surgery about every two years: first gallbladder, then plantar fasciitis, and then detached tendon. I was hoping not to have to have another surgery for a long time, but things happen. I’m just happy to be alive and in recovery.

Go on, get that mammogram! Do it for yourself. The best person to take care of you is you. So take care of yourself by picking up the phone and making that appointment.

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Because I got my mammogram I found my cancer early, I’m recovering from surgery and am now cancer free. I’m standing in the light of life shouting out, “I am a survivor!”

 

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LOVING YOURSELF AS IS

Dealing with cancer takes a toll on your mental health. You go through stages of depression, grief, and anger. Your emotions run wild. Then if you go through a bilateral mastectomy, you have to decide on reconstruction or not. Deciding on reconstruction comes down to learning to love yourself all over again and accepting yourself as you are or finding self-love in having new breasts. It all comes down to what makes you feel good about yourself and how you feel inside. Some women are comfortable without breasts and some feel they have to have breasts. It’s a personal choice that can’t be taken lightly.

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Before my surgery, the surgeon said they could probably do reconstruction at the same time as my mastectomy. I was happy. This meant I would still wake up with breasts. I wouldn’t wake up flat-chested. I felt that having breasts defined me as a woman and made me sexier to my husband. I couldn’t even imagine not having them. When I met with the plastic surgeon, he burst my bubble. He told me because of the size of my breasts he couldn’t do reconstruction for three to four months after my surgery. My heart broke and tears threatened to spill.

This meant I’d wake up flat-chested. I’d have to go for a long time with nothing. This seemed like the end of the world to me. I went into a depression. I wouldn’t be a woman without breasts, people would look at me funny, my husband wouldn’t think I was sexy anymore, and I wouldn’t be able to look at myself the same way again. How could I love myself if I were missing part of what made me a woman? I cried in my husband’s arms and I got mad at God for allowing this to happen to me. None of this seemed fair. I had already been through enough in my life and now I was going through more. I was flooded with so many emotions.

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Then I had my surgery. At first I couldn’t even look at myself. I cried and asked my husband if I was ugly.

He said, “No matter what, you look beautiful to me.”

 

 

Slowly I start peeking at my bandaged chest. Then once the bandages were off, I started standing in front of the mirror. I carefully rubbed my hands over the area where my breasts were and asked myself, “Can I love myself as I am or do I need to have breasts?” Then I heard Lou’s voice in my head, “You’re beautiful as you are.” In the days to follow I would stand in front of the mirror saying, “I am beautiful as I am.”

My friend told me I should make a list of the positives and negatives of having breast reconstruction and not having it. The positive of not having it outweighed the positives of having it. The skin left over from my breasts kind of looks like small breasts, I feel comfortable without having to wear a bra, the headaches and neck pain I had before surgery are gone, no heat rashes, no bouncing while walking, and so on. Most importantly I’m still me just with a flatter chest. I’m still woman and as beautiful as ever. I am in week three of my recovery and I am pretty confident I can love myself without reconstruction.

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I’m still getting used to the loss of my breasts, but I am finding acceptance and a new love for myself. The greatest part is I am cancer free. I went to a cancer support group and heard from people who had reconstruction and others who have not. I have pretty much decided I can love myself as I am. I am emotionally stronger and I am feeling more confident in myself as a woman without breasts. I am a beautiful, strong woman reaching for the light of recovery from cancer.

NO JOKING MATTER

Every part of our bodies is special, even though some parts can be a pain, like breasts. Breasts bounce when you run, sometimes gives you heat rashes, and sometimes they get in the way. Many of us who are well-endowed claim we’d love to get rid of them. Oh, how nice it would be not to bother with them anymore! Not to have them knock your cereal bowl over or bounce like basketballs when you rush to the bus stop. It would be so nice not to have those sore itchy rashes under them. I even had the same thoughts until I had to actually decide to lose them or keep them due to cancer and a cancer-causing gene called the BRCA gene.

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I heard all the comments before I made my choice: “They are just extra fat, it’s no big deal,” “You don’t need them they are just for men to play with,” “You’re lucky, I’d love to go braless,” “I bet you’ll feel ten pounds lighter” and “It’s no big deal to lose them; they just get in the way.” It’s easy to say these things when you’re not faced with actually losing them. I at times also wished I had no breasts, but once I had to decide to lose this part of my womanhood, they no longer seemed like a nuance.

Many things went through my mind while I tried to decide what to do. How will I look? Will I still be attractive to my husband? Will I lose some of what makes me a woman? Will people stare at me? Will I like myself? Will I still think I’m pretty? Would I still be able to look at myself in the mirror? I went over the questions in my head, and in the end I knew having a bilateral mastectomy was the best and safest answer.

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Before the surgery I went through crying periods. At times I asked my husband, “Have I made the right decision?” Suddenly these big annoying things meant the world to me. I was going to lose a part of my body and a part that made me a woman. I couldn’t help but feel remorse. The tears came and my heart shattered. I had these breasts since my teen years and suddenly they were going to be gone.

I had the mastectomy on July 17. Once I was taken to my room after surgery, my mom and husband stood at my bedside and all I could ask was, “How do I look with nothing?” They both said I looked fine. The nurses asked if I looked at my bandaged chest and I said, “No, I can’t.” I just could not look at where my breasts once were. It was too hard. I could tell by my gown that it was flatter there, but I just couldn’t look beyond that. Even when I got dressed to go home, I couldn’t look.

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It wasn’t until I was home a night or so that I looked at the stitched and bandaged chest where I once had breasts.

Tears filled my eyes, grief shook my body, and I looked into my husband’s eyes, “I’m ugly.”

My husband wiped my tears away and said, “No, you’re not. You’re still beautiful as ever.”

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It’s now been a week and a half since my surgery. I’ve gone through periods of grief and I’m slowly finding acceptance. I must decide whether or not I want to get reconstruction, but I’m saving that until I’m healed. Right now the most important thing to me is recovery and dealing with the stages of loss. Losing my breasts is no joke. It’s hard to handle, but each day I am growing stronger. I’m learning to accept myself as I am. This is a big process. I had to learn to love myself while reaching for recovery from mental illness, and now I have to learn to love myself without breasts.

A friend told me the body is a shell; the true beauty lies within. She’s right. We can’t take our bodies to heaven, but our beautiful souls go on for eternity. So love yourself inside first then outside. No matter what flaw your body has or what you have lost, you are beautiful. Beauty is all around you and most importantly deep within you. Grieve your loss and learn to accept yourself as you are.

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I’m still on the road to recovery from my surgery. I go in and out of phases of grief, but each day it’s getting easier. I’m listing the positives to my loss and looking at each day with a new light. The best part is I’m now cancer free. In time I will stand in the light of recovery from cancer.

 

 

 

NO PITY PARTY

Life is hard. Things we don’t plan for happen to us. Illness strikes us unexpectedly. When things happen, we can choose to fight or sit down and have a pity party. Some decide to wallow in self-pity and they want everyone else to feel sorry for them. They tell the world about how awful things are for them and how there is no help. This only leads to an endless road of hopelessness. Others decide to fight. They stand up to their illness and face it head on. With mental illness and cancer, if you want to reach recovery, you must decide to stand tall and fight.

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I know a woman who is suffering from mental illness. She tells everyone there is no help for her. She goes to her friends and talks on and on about how awful her life is. She blames her husband for not understanding and changes psychiatrist often when they won’t do what she tells them to do. She doesn’t try anything the psychiatrist suggests, and when medication doesn’t work right away, she stops taking it. Instead of fighting her illness, she has chosen to feel sorry for herself and she wants everyone else to do the same. The only problem is she’ll never reach recovery because she won’t fight for it. The only thing I can do for her is pray she’ll change her ways and decide to fight to reach the light.

A coworker comes up with imaginary illnesses and sees the negative side to everything. If you ask her how she’s doing, she’ll list all her problems and want you to pray for her. Her doctor told her she needed to talk to a therapist, but the therapist suggested something she didn’t like, so she quit. When she is invited to hang out with others at work she has excuses. If I call her on the phone to tell her about something that happened to me, the conversation turns into all about her problems. She’s a single woman who sits alone at home and feels sorry for herself. She’ll never change unless she is willing to work hard and find a new way of thinking. I pray in time she’ll decide to go back to therapy and stick to it. She can live a happy life if she is willing to commit herself to the battle to find joy in life.

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When I had mental illness, I could have sat down and had a pity party, but once I realized what my illness was, I decided to fight it. It took time and a lot of work, but I did reach recovery. Now I have cancer. When I found out I had it, my husband told me not to go to work the next day. I wanted to go to work. Why? Because I wasn’t willing to sit around home crying and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to keep busy and be around people. I wanted to push forward.

It would be easy to wallow in self-pity. I mean, haven’t I been through enough? Last year I had ankle surgery and was in the emergency room four times. I’ve fought mental illness, risen above abuse, and worked around a learning disability. Isn’t that more than enough for one person to face? Now I have to face cancer. It would be so easy to lie in bed and give up.

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I could have a pity party, but I’m not like that. I’m a fighter. I will beat cancer no matter what it takes. I’ve been running from one appointment to the next. My head has been over- loaded with so much information, I feel like shutting down and hiding. Instead I push forward. I practice the coping techniques I learned while I was recovering from mental illness. I go to work each day, I put a smile on, and I even joke about my up and coming surgery with friends, saying while they give me new breast, can they take a few inches off the middle and off my bottom?

I’ve had to make some difficult decisions, I have a scary disease and I have a long road ahead of me, but I will not feel sorry for myself. Instead I will stand up and fight. I even told my friends I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. If you love me, you’ll support me in my fight.

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A coworker told me, “Stop having a pity party.”

I answered, “I don’t have pity parties. I fight.”

I can’t say at times I don’t feel sorry for myself. Who wouldn’t, but I don’t let myself linger in it. Instead I focus on beating cancer and staying positive. I push forward and I prepare for what is to come. I celebrate the small things like I will not have to have chemotherapy.

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If you have mental illness, cancer, or some other illness allow yourself to have a small pity party, but then push forward. Don’t give up on yourself. Fight with all that’s in you; fight to get better, fight for yourself, and fight for a new beginning. Pity parties don’t get you anywhere.

I am facing a major surgery to have my breast removed and reconstructed, but I will stand tall. Because I don’t sit in self-pity, instead I fight. In time I will be dancing in the light of recovery from cancer.

 

I AM A FIGHTER

Staying in the light of recovery can be very hard, especially when the unexpected happens. Life is full of surprises, and no matter how hard you try to prepare, something can strike you out of the blue. Some things you just can’t prepare for, and when they happen, you must rely on your own strength to stay in the light. When this happens, you learn how strong you are and you turn to all the coping techniques you learned while you were ill. Even though you are in recovery, at times you must still fight to stay above the hole. This is when you must decide if you’re a fighter or a quitter.

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Ever since I got the diagnosis of breast cancer, I have been fighting depression. Everything seems unreal. I feel fine, yet I have cancer. How could I have such an awful illness and feel healthy? This has to be a nightmare. I want to go to sleep and wake up cancer free, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I’ve even questioned God. Why would he give me such an awful disease? Did I do something to deserve it? Am I being punished?

I try to keep busy. I’ve been cleaning up around the house, and on my day off when I don’t have appointments, I go to lunch with a friend, take our dog for a walk, and do laundry. There are moments when I’m okay with things and other moments when I just start crying. My thoughts get the best of me. I start thinking about my illness and the rough road that lies ahead of me. I begin worrying about how we’ll pay our bills while I’m off work. I start to feel sorry for myself.

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It’s just not fair. I fought hard to overcome mental illness and now I am suddenly struggling with a physical illness. I worked hard to overcome depression and once again I’m fighting with it. Haven’t I been through enough in my life? Why me? Why do I have to go through this? I’m tired of having problems.

Just last year I had a detached tendon repaired in my ankle, two years before that I had a procedure done for plantar fasciitis, and two years before that I had my gall bladder out. I have been to physical therapy so often they know me by name. Now I’m facing an even bigger surgery. It just doesn’t seem right.

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I’ll be off work for 6 to 8 weeks. It takes both Lou and my check to pay our bills. How will we survive on one income? Disability at work doesn’t pay much. Will we lose our home? Will our gas and electricity be turned off? How will we buy groceries? The worries go on and on.

Then I start thinking I am not strong enough to handle this. I can’t do this. I can’t go through another surgery. I’m sick of fighting. I just want to go back in time to when I was cancer free. I want someone to shake me and wake me up and say it was all a bad dream. I can’t do this. I’m not strong. I’m weak. The tears begin to pour from my eyes. Then I run to Lou and he holds me while I cry. He reassures me I am strong and I can and will fight this. He talks to me until I stop crying. He even gets me laughing.

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This is when I turn to my coping techniques and support system. I can’t let a disease like cancer push me back to the bottom of the hole again. I’m too strong for that, right? I can’t give up.

Lou keeps saying to me. “As long as I’ve known you, you have never been a quitter. You are a fighter. This time you’re not fighting alone. I’m here fighting with you.”

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He’s right. There are plenty of times I could have quit, like when my teachers and classmates at school said I was too stupid to pass school on my own or ever be able to work a job. I fought to prove them wrong. It wasn’t an easy battle, but I didn’t give up and I proved them all wrong. So why would I give up now? Why would I allow depression to win again? Why would I let cancer ruin my life?

If you’re faced with a challenge, don’t be a quitter; be a fighter. Fight for yourself, fight to stay above the hole, fight for happiness, and fight with all that’s within you. Times will get hard and your strength will be tested, but don’t give up. You might feel like there is nothing left within you to face the battle before you, but turn to God. Trust in him. He’ll give you the extra strength you need.

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Since I found out I have cancer, I have been praying a lot. I have been turning to friends and family for support, I have been practicing coping techniques and fighting. I will not quit. I will fight cancer and my depression. Because I am not a quitter, I’ll bathe in the light of recovery from both mental illness and cancer.

 

HARD DECISIONS

We all are faced with difficult decisions within our lives. We have to decide on jobs, having a family, what bills to pay, what kind of car to buy, and so on. Sometimes we make the wrong choices, and other times we make very good choices. At times we have to make decisions others don’t agree on, but are the best ones for us. No one can tell us what to choose or how. It’s all in our hands. There are times there is no good decision, just one that will benefit you the most.

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Since last month I’ve gone to one appointment after another talking with doctors and specialists about the cancer that invaded my body. I talked with a geneticist about a cancer causing gene called the BRCA. We all have the BRCA gene, but when it becomes mutated, it can cause cancer in the ovaries, breasts, prostate, or skin. My aunt has the mutated gene and they tested me for it. I tested positive.

The geneticist went over my options for having the gene. I could choose to have my breasts removed or be on a high risk watch. I talked with my surgeon, a doctor at the cancer center, and a navigational nurse. All listed the positives and negatives to keeping my breasts or losing them.

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I could keep them and get six month checkups and mammograms, but be at high risk to get another cancer. The next cancer could be more aggressive and harder to treat. For the cancer I have I don’t need chemotherapy since it’s in the early stages, but the next one might require chemo and harsher treatments. I’m a worrier and I’d continually worry myself sick each time I’d get a mammogram. Then if they find something, I’d have to go through another biopsy. My chances of getting another cancer would be high.

Then there is my second choice. Have my breasts removed and eliminate the worry. I’d have a 90% chance of not getting cancer again. No more mammograms, no more biopsies, and no more worries. I could choose to go flat chested or have my breasts reconstructed. The hard part would be losing a part of my body and going through a long, painful surgery that would take five hours I’d spend the night in the hospital and have visiting nurses when I’m home. I’d miss a lot of work and would have to find ways to pay our bills.

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What a decision to make! How could I make this one? How can I decide to keep or lose part of what defines me as a woman? My breasts are a part of me.

A girl at work said, “Who needs them anyways? They just get in the way.”

She’s right they; can be a pain, but they are mine. When I was going through puberty, I didn’t want them. When they started to grow, I refused to wear a bra. My mom had to tell me to put one on. Through the years I have grown to like them and now I must choose to keep them or lose them. I agonized over this. Lou and I discussed it. We went over my options again and again.

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I sat in my room looking at myself, holding them and crying. How would it feel to have fake ones? Would Lou still look at me the same? Would I feel the same about them? Would they just be lifeless things hanging from my chest? The questions swam through my head.

I turned to Lou and asked him how he felt. He said, “I support your choice whatever you make. You’ll be beautiful to me no matter what. Having fake ones will not change a thing.”

My mind went over my options again and again. My muscles tightened, my head began to ache, and I became nauseated. I got sick at a restaurant. I kept thinking, “How can I make this decision? I can’t do this.”

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I prayed about it and continued to discuss it with Lou. Then the next day I called my surgeon’s nurse with my decision. I will have my breasts removed. That night I woke up several times, my decision swimming in my head. Did I make the right choice? Will I regret this?

I sat down and listed the positives of getting new breasts. No more mammograms, I could get them smaller, no more heat rashes, no more biopsies, no more chances of getting cancer in them, no more sagging, and no more worries. This helped me feel better about my choice.

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If you have hard decisions to make, don’t let it drag you into depression or an anxiety attack. Talk to someone about your options. List the positive and negative sides. Weigh each one out equally and make a decision that is best for you. Others will have their own theories on your situation. Everyone has an opinion, but their opinions don’t count. In the end it comes down to what is best for you. Make your choice, stick to it, believe in it, and let it go. Don’t mull it over in your mind and dwell on it.

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I made my choice and now I’m waiting for my surgery date with courage and determination that everything will work out for the best. Once I am cancer free Lou says he will throw me a party. I now have something to look forward to and another reason to fight. In time I will stand in the light of recovery from mental illness and cancer.

 

COPING TECHNIQUES FOR LIFE

Getting through life is hard. There are a lot of ups and downs. You never know when the unexpected will suddenly slam into you, leaving you struggling to just get by. We all have some form of coping techniques we use to get us through everyday struggles. Some go for walks, some sit on the beach, some do crafts, and so on. For those who are in recovery from mental illness, the coping techniques you learned to help you get into the light will stick with you and become helpful throughout your life and in different challenges that come up.

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Even in the midst of recovery, life can throw you into the most unpredictable and challenging situations. Situations that can threaten to throw you back into the hole. You are never cured from mental illness. You must maintain your illness daily to stay above the hole, but what do you do when life takes an unpredictable twist and pushes you toward the hole? This is where your coping techniques you learned through your struggles become handy.

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I have been in recovery from mental illness for a while and then suddenly I’m slapped with a serious illness. I’m on sleeping medication, but I keep waking up early in the morning with racing thoughts. I find myself crying for no reason and worrying about what’s next obsessively. I can’t even think straight and I make mistakes at work. I go to each of my appointments (there are many of them) with my mind whirling around in circles. I can’t even think of questions to ask. I feel like my brain is on overload with the information the doctors are throwing at me. I feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, scared, and so many other emotions I can’t even explain.

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Right away I noticed the signs of depression slipping in. Who wouldn’t be depressed if told he or she had cancer? The first thought that hits me when I hear the words cancer is, “I have a death sentence.” I’ve heard the horror stories of cancer. I watched my grandfather die of cancer.

I knew right away I was allowing negative thoughts to take over. So I returned to my coping skills of turning negative thoughts into positive. I turned my death sentence thought into, “I’m going to beat cancer. If I can overcome my mental illness, stand above abuse, work around a learning disability, I can conquer cancer.”

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Then I developed my support system. I often cry in my husband’s arms and snuggle up to him while he whispers positive words in my ear. One day when I was feeling pretty down, he bought me roses and candy and had my manager deliver them to me on register while at work. My husband gives me all the support and extra attention I need. He listens to me and reminds me to stay positive and not to worry about the future. He goes to all my appointments with me.

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Then there are my friends whom I can text and call when I need to. My friend Denise took me for a two mile walk at the Peninsula we have in Erie, PA and to a festival. My friend Karen invited me over to paint rocks. Keeping busy helps me forget for a little while that I have a serious illness. My other friends offer support, prayers, and strength through texts, cards, and gifts. My friend Amy got me an adult coloring book to help keep me busy.

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My family also is very supportive. I can call my parents anytime and my siblings are also available when I need them. My Aunt Joan messages me to see how I am doing. My cousin on Lou’s side is willing to listen and encourage whenever I need it, and Aunt Fay on my husband’s side is always sending her love just through a phone call.

Lou works early in the morning and goes to bed early. It would be easy to sit alone and allow my thoughts to overtake me and rip me apart. Instead I keep busy. I journal my feelings and I color in my adult coloring book. As soon as I get through paper work and reading about my illness, I will get back to working on editing my memoir. I’m writing this blog post.

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I’m also being careful of what kind of people I talk to. It’s important to be around positive people. I need people who will encourage me and support me and who focus on the bright side of life. People who dwell on negativity, who are dramatic, who are stuck on their own problems, and who like to talk about the worst side of my disease I try to stay away from.

I am suffering from minor depression along with my cancer, but my coping techniques are keeping me from falling all the way to the bottom of the hole of darkness. Instead I’m dangling between the light and darkness. I’m holding on tight to the roots of hope, strength, and courage. I think I am stronger because of my fight with mental illness, and because of my coping techniques, I will fight cancer with all I have within me. I am proud of myself for how well I am handling my illness so far.

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With the help of my coping techniques and inner determination, I know in time I will stand not only in the light of recovery from my depression, but also from my cancer.

I’m in the process of figuring out what my treatment for my cancer will be. I’ve been overwhelmed with information, paperwork and appointments. So unfortunately I did not get a blog post out this week. I’ll work on one for next week.

THE WAITING GAME

Waiting is hard for anyone. People get upset and on edge just waiting in line. I often tell my husband, “Have patience; your turn will come soon.” It’s hard to be patient, especially when you just want to get out of the store or place you are waiting at.

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It’s even harder waiting for results from a biopsy. It is so hard that it is emotionally painful. Many thoughts fill your mind, scenarios play out like a movie, and each time your phone rings you jump. You lie awake at night and your nerves become on edge.

I had my biopsy on May 23. The nurse told me I would get a call with the results within two to five business days. Others who had biopsies told me they heard within two days. I hoped I to would hear within two days. I counted the days. Thursday and Friday went by and no phone call. My insides turned inside out and my thoughts raced.

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Why haven’t they called? Does no news mean good news? Damn it, ring phone, ring. How will I handle it if it’s cancer? What if I’m home alone when they call? They haven’t called so it has to be good news, right? Oh damn, there’s a holiday on Monday. I’ll have to wait longer for the results. I can’t do this. I can’t be patient. What will I do to keep from worrying about it? How will I make it through a long weekend?

Saturday I went to work like usual. I felt a deep sadness in me. I felt hopeless and lost. The lines at the grocery store where I work were as endless along as my thoughts. I felt an ache deep in my heart. I looked at my boss rushing around. Tears welled up in my eyes. Tell her you need to go home. Tell her you can’t do this right now and you’re not strong enough. Tell her you’re depressed and you think you’re losing control of your mental illness.

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Then the positive voice took over. Stop it, Aimee. You can do this. You’re not losing control and you’re not going to let your illness take over. You can handle this.

I swallowed my tears and took a deep breath and muttered, “I am strong and I am a fighter. Whatever the results are, I will handle it and rise above it. Besides I DON’T HAVE CANCER. I’ll keep saying that until my insides stop churning.”

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Saturday night I talked to my husband’s cousin. She was positive and reaffirming. Her words were comforting and my anguish lifted a little bit. Then Sunday came. I felt a little bit stronger to handle the day. After work I went to my parents and spent the night so I could participate in the Memorial Day picnic with my Grandma who is in a nursing home. My husband went home because he had to work. I tried hard not to look at my watch and count the hours until bed and another day. I talked with my parents and watched television.

Thoughts nagged at me. Is it cancer? If it’s cancer, will I get very sick? How will Lou and I pay bills if I can’t work? What will happen to me? Lou has loss so many people to cancer, how could I put him through it again? Who’s going to take care of Lou if I’m sick? My chest felt like someone was punching it from the inside. My body ached all over. That night I called Lou before going to sleep. Like usual he told me everything would be ok and stay positive. He told me to journal. So I journaled, “I DON’T HAVE CANCER,” along with all my feelings.

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Monday went by pretty well. Grandma wasn’t feeling well so we ended our picnic early and had the nurses put Grandma in bed. Then I sat at my parents’ house relaxing until Lou came. Then Tuesday came and still no results. I became very on edge. The thoughts began to race even more. So after work I journaled and did some coloring in my adult coloring book. I messaged friends to pray I would get an answer the next day. Again I wrote, “I DON’T HAVE CANCER” in my journal.

Wednesday I decided I would call and find out if they got my results. I called at 11:00 a.m., and the nurse told me they had my results and the doctor would call me back. I kept my phone in my hand. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss the call. Lou took me to lunch and we took our dog to get her nails cut. It was 1:00 p.m. and still nothing. We headed to my parents a half hour away so my father could work on my car.

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I sat and talked with my mom while Lou helped my dad. 2:00 p.m. came and I called again. The nurse said the doctor was on the phone and he would call me right back. So I glanced at my phone waiting for it to ring. My stomach churned. I had to keep going to the bathroom. Instead of my nerves making me throw up, I had diarrhea. My muscles tensed and my shoulders began to hurt along with my head.

Ring, damn phone. Why aren’t they calling me back? I can’t believe the doctor isn’t calling me. What is taking so long? I’m not mentally strong enough to handle this. I’m going to have a mental break down. I worked so hard to reach recovery from my mental illness and now I’m falling apart.

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3:00 p.m. came and still no phone call. I called again and yet again the nurse said the doctor would call me back. I felt so sick that it felt like I had suddenly caught a rare flu. My muscles tensed more and my head began to scream in pain. By 3:30 p.m. the phone finally rang. The words, “You have breast cancer,” filled my ears while tears spilled from my eyes. I couldn’t think straight. I texted Lou to come in the house right away and he rushed in. We cried in each other’s arms.

Now while I wait to find out what my course of treatment will be, I write in my journal, “I WILL BEAT CANCER.” Each day I will work on focusing on the positive and to continuing to maintain my mental health. Because I am in the light of recovery from my mental illness, I know I am strong enough to beat cancer. Taking care of me and being positive will keep me in the light of recovery from mental illness and will lead me to the light of recovery from breast cancer.