Friday, August 2, 2013
Dear Karla: You Guys Encourge Her, Okay?
Hello, Megan :-)
I was just asking Mr. Google a question this morning about chemo cough and lo and behold I find your journal blogging about breast cancer and chemo cough with dripping nose, which I now have both. I have one more chemo next Friday that I'm kind of dreading because of the cumulative side effects and looking forward to getting past. Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a note and say thank you for sharing. It's also very nice to hear that you're now doing well cancer free. I also am a court reporter. I haven't been working since I got my diagnosis in March due to my surgeries and chemo now. I'm a little concerned they may want me to also do radiation which I've almost decided for sure I'm going to decline due to other medical complications that could arise later. Anyway kudos to you. This breast cancer journey is definitely not for sissies. It does give new perspective to my life as well.
My husband and I were on a much needed and scared-to-death-it-wouldn't-even-happen vacation recently when I received this surprise e-mail (above) as a comment to one of my long-ago journal posts. I do not personally know this precious lady but I do know that once upon a time -- a horrible, horrible time -- I walked in her shoes. I know exactly what it feels like to tramp that hazy, crazy, dimly lit path called: I have to take chemo and possibly go through radiation and for sure I have to take a chemo "pill" for the next five years that has all sorts of side effects (which, I have come to find out, are not so bad after all). I also realized that because I have not updated my journal in such a long, long time that perhaps I should. People who might happen across it might find new hope in the fact that I did survive. They might find that there is a wider, brighter path once you get out of that scary chemo/radiation forest. You DO get your hair back -- and eventually you get your actual hair, not the chemo curly hair that springs forth first. You DO stop coughing, Karla. You laugh. You move on. Your life resumes. You alllll-most forget that you even had to go through this awfulness at all (until you see that chest scar in the mirror every morning, HA!)
And then you get a phone call or an e-mail from a friend or even a stranger and they will say -- breast cancer, oh my God! I am scared to death. I heard you went through this. Can you please tell me what to expect? What will happen to me? And immediately you summon all your positive words, you find that you have all the time in the world to talk to this person, talk them through it. Offer them any kind of hope that they can cling to because you know, you know exactly how terrifying it felt to get that diagnosis. How you knew in an instant that as soon as the doctor said, "you have breast cancer" your life would be forever changed, and it was.
You also remember all the people who tossed you a lifeline. Many you didn't even know -- complete strangers who offered you a single sentence of hope -- you will get through this and be fine. There is so much help offered through the American Cancer Society these days, check their website message board -- people are always posting suggestions.
A lady at my breast surgeon's office, a volunteer, a 30 year survivor, visited with me for a long time and told me how bad her breast cancer was back in the 70s and how rough it had been for her when doctors were still experimenting with treatments. But she made it and she was there to tell me that I was going to live to be an old woman, of that she was confident. And you know what? She was so positive and upbeat that I believed her. She told me to be cheerful and wear bright colors, wear make up, do anything to cheer by own self up -- stay positive. That was hard to do sometimes. It's easier to do when you have a "friend" to count on. I was lucky. I had lots of friends that cheered me on and sat beside me when I took my chemo, my children who called and sent me gifts and then I had my greatest support -- my husband, Dwain.
Anyway, I want Karla to know that she WILL wack her way through the chemo/radiation jungle. At the time that I was going through this awfulness I felt so alone with my thoughts of gloom and doom -- and you do feel this way every so often -- you just do feel sorry for yourself sometimes. That's okay. Just know that when you reach out and let someone know what you are thinking and how you feel, there will be a lifeline of hundreds of thousands of women who understand what you are going through and will gladly offer any help they can think of. And as this volunteer that I spoke of early told me, once you are finished healing and all is well, it will be your awesome opportunity to be there to offer a voice, or throw a lifeline to the next person who happens to seek you out. This type if service will not only be expected of you, it will be your duty as a survivor.
And Karla, you will survive.
PS: I will try to do better and update my journal more often. It's important to share and to let people know how life does go on on the other side of breast cancer.