Saturday, September 25, 2010

To My Baby Sister

Studies have shown that a cancer diagnosis can be harder emotionally on family members and loved ones than on the diagnosee. They watch from the sideline, feeling pretty helpless as the one they love goes through physical pain and suffering with little relief. They can't prevent the hair loss, the nausea, the surgery pain and scars, and radiation burns. Some family members distance themselves, feeling useless or unneeded. I'm so glad you weren't one of those.

I know it had to have been hard for you to watch me go through what I did. I know it had to have been hard to deal with my mood swings, lethargy and emotion. But you did so with a smile on your face, a great listening ear, and all the hugs I needed. You stepped up and brought me to medical appointments because you wanted to be be part of it (and because I needed both the support and a driver!) You worked your butt off to raise funds and train for these three days and 60 miles of walking because you felt the need to do more.

It wasn't necessary. Walking 60 miles three months after having a baby is a very impressive feat, and definitely something I didn't expect you to do. But you were determined, a quality that I've always admired in you. You wanted to make a difference...and believe me, you have.

It's been a tough year, for myself and our entire family. It's been filled with illness, uncertainty, and lots of emotion. But it's also been filled with love. I simply cannot imagine going through this journey without the support of my family. In my weakest moments, it was so comforting to know that I could rely on your strength.

When I received my diagnosis, my first thought was "how could this happen?" My second thought was "I'm glad it was me and not my baby sister." Not because I didn't think you could make it through all of this, but because I never want you to have to.

I am grateful for every step you take, and every penny you've raised. I am forever grateful for our relationship. So honored to call you my friend.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I've been in hiding

Well, not really. But I've definitely taken a HUGE step back from anything and everything breast-cancer related for the past month or so. Brian was able to come home for a few weeks, and it was absolutely AMAZING to spend time with him and not have to worry about a single medical appointment. We took a trip to the East Coast and really enjoyed ourselves. I hadn't been there in a few years, so it was really nice to see his side of the family; and to walk around the Naval Academy yard and reminisce about our wedding there.

Besides that, I just needed a break. I've pretty much completely immersed myself over the past year in all things breast cancer...research, information, medical trials, support groups...not to mention 49 weeks of active treatment. After I finished treatment, I really just needed to try to regain some semblance of normalcy in my life. I'm pretty sure reality laughed in my face at my assumption that I could return to status quo.

Everything is different. Yes, I live my life and try not to dwell on the fact that I just spent over 11 months actively fighting a potentially deadly disease. I try not to be frustrated that, when last year I could easily knock out 55 pushups, right now I am up to 2.5 pounds in my resistance training; or that I used to wake up at 4:30 every morning to work out, and right now waking up at 5:30 (sometimes 6) is filled with dread and mid-day exhaustion. Now, when I feel pain, like I did last week at the base of my neck, I instantly fear the worst, then have to talk myself back to a somewhat rational state. I wonder if the slice of wedding cake I had last weekend is going to regrow a tumor. I wonder frequently if I'll have to call (or worse, email) my husband while he is deployed and tell him news that would terrify him.

I went to my first support group meeting after finishing treatment, and was pretty amazed at how quickly I had switched roles from a supportee to a supporter. There were several women there just starting their course of treatment, and I was the one with experience and tips to offer them. It seems like just a short time ago, I was crying trying to figure out how to deal with losing my eyelashes or possible infertility. I'm not sure I was really ready for that transition.

I realized on the way home from the meeting that I'm living a completely new normal. I'm no longer a breast cancer patient; I'm a breast cancer survivor. I'm still trying to come to terms with that, and what it exactly means. That some days I will be fine and other days I'll be emotional and tired and cranky and fearful. Hopefully, as both my body and mind heal from the trauma of the past year, my fine days will start outweighing the not so fine ones.

Thanks for sticking with me through this journey. I am incredibly grateful for your support and encouragement...