Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Personal Perspective, Part 5

Each Tuesday in October, Katie is taking over my blog to talk about her experience with breast cancer. You can read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here. This week, to finish out the month, Katie will be posting the final parts of her series on both Monday and Tuesday.

 It's been almost six months since my reconstruction surgery.  When I was going through treatment, I kept thinking, "I can't wait until there is a day that cancer doesn't cross my mind." And now, I frequently have those days and when I do think about cancer, it's from a different view. I do know that I was lucky, but I'm also less afraid - I had something really terrible thrown at me and I was able to cope. The biggest fear that I do have is that my cancer would become metastatic, because there is no cure for that, and it would mean that I would have to undergo treatment for the rest of my life. 30% of early stage cancers do, at some point, become metastatic, and there are many women out there living that reality.

I want to use the rest of this post to talk about some final things from my experience with breast cancer.

For as much as I learned about my body and physical health during this experience, I learned even more about taking care of my mental and emotional health. I think trying to keep a positive attitude throughout treatment definitely helped me, but like anything else, it was a balancing act in learning to be kind to myself. Not every moment was going to be pink ribbons and survivor slogans. Talking to a therapist throughout my treatment played a big role in how I handled everything being thrown at me.

I also want to talk about doing self breast exams. I read that 80% of women find their own breast cancer, and with mammograms not being covered by insurance until the age of 40, that means the vast majority of young patients have no screening options other than themselves and their annual gynecologist visit. It would have been so much worse for me if I had not found my lump during a self exam.

Writing these posts has been a great way for me to look back and reflect on my breast cancer experience, now that my treatment is over and I'm less fearful. I hope that they've been helpful to you in understanding the actual reality of living with breast cancer a little bit better. I also hope that when life throws you your own unexpected curve balls, you will know that you are strong enough to get through it, and to always focus on living a life that is as happy and healthy as it can possibly be.

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