I’m finally looping around on my life after the trauma of being diagnosed with a malignant phyllodes tumor in my left breast. My last surgery was to get my temporary implant replaced with a permanent reconstruction on April 5, 2013. So much has happened since then, but I have to say it has taken me this long to come back around and really face what happened.
I’m having a really hard time re-entering into my life, and re-entering into my life as I knew it seems absolutely impossible. I closed my store in Russian Hill a month after my diagnosis in the fall of 2011, and now that treatment and surgeries are over, I have awoken into a very different San Francisco. It is so expensive, I have had to move to Oakland, where I don’t know anyone, and I keep getting referred for new work down in Los Angeles (I’m an interior designer), and not the Bay Area. I have been spending a lot of time by myself and have come to terms with the fact that 3 years after my diagnosis, all of my friends have had their second and third babies, and never call me back! I feel like I’ve been left behind, and find myself in the slow lane.
I met a woman last week who works at a wonderful place called Yoga Props in San Francisco… I stopped in to get an inversion sling (amazing to hang upside down… great for the immune system and depression, among other things… ), and it turns out we had the same surgeon at UCSF! I told her about my adjusting to life post cancer and how much has changed for me, and she mentioned that perhaps I could volunteer at Charlotte Maxwell Complimentary Clinic or the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, both in Oakland. The Women’s Cancer Resource Center is fabulous, I may have mentioned it in a previous post, I got a check from them at one point during my treatment while I was staying with my sister in the East Bay. Going back to my conversation with Kathleen at Yoga Props… I said something along the line that I might want to move on from the topic, that I don’t know if I want to work with cancer anymore. She reminded me that the cancer is now a part of me, that my life is forever changed. I do agree. I do also agree with men and women I know in the 80’s who survived cancer 20-45 years before and it no longer defines them. I don’t think cancer defines me, it’s just that the healing process takes a while after treatment is over. Two years later, I feel like I am dealing with PTSD. There are some life changes, like now I am very knowledgable about cancer treatment. I just got back from staying for three days with a good friend with stage iv lung cancer who is getting treated at Stanford Medical Center. I feel fortunate I have been able to help him in ways his friends who have never had cancer can… like staying on top of the symptoms from chemotherapy is KEY. This means, take your Prevacid or whatever antacids your doctor has prescribed you, and take them consistently during chemo… this will help keep the acid reflux and nausea at bay. It’s a matter of maintaining yourself well, rather than chasing the symptoms. Aloe juice is also very good for this… I took a few swigs of it daily throughout my treatment. A friend passed this tip along to me from her Chilean friend who had finished chemo the year before.
I hope this lengthy post doesn’t bore you. I have more to tell you about my overall treatment and thoughts about it after the fact, but will write about that on another day.
I hope everyone is happy, healthy and free from suffering.