Four years ago, I wrote these words:
Somehow, I made it though the Thanksgiving weekend, with my thoughts jumping from the hope that this would turn out OK to the fear that I would not see my boys grow up. My mind wandered and worried about surgery and what treatments I would have. I wondered if I could have more kids and whether or not I would lose my hair. I cried and lost sleep and was hopeful too. I learned a lot from reading my new book. I learned that many women do go on to have kids after cancer, but I also learned that chemotherapy in young women can cause early menopause. I learned that I have an 85% survival rate and also that I will get tiny little tattoos surrounding my breast to aid in the proper delivery of radiation. These permanent tattoos will also alert any future doctors that my breast has had radiation because I can never have it again in that same area. The book helped me feel positive about this journey but it also helped me face reality.
And here’s how reality has panned out: I had a lumpectomy to remove the 1.1 cm tumor lodged firmly in my left breast. My cancer had not spread to lymph nodes, my margins were clear, but my disease was an aggressive one that deserved harsh treatment. I received four doses of chemotherapy (given once every two weeks), then six weeks of radiation (given every week day), then one year’s worth of the targeted drug Herceptin (given one time every three weeks). I did lose my hair. I never did have any more kids (not because I can’t, just because I decided I don’t want more). My survival rate is even better than I thought four years ago—it’s in the 90% range, really. And I am busy watching my little boys grow up.
This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for my life. I can’t predict the future and therefore have no way to tell if cancer’s coming back my way, but I plan to plug along as if it’s not. And I’ll celebrate when each November rolls around because this month, more than any other, is a sign—a sign that I’ve survived one more year. And that’s quite a gift.