I am slowly figuring out who I am again. Or maybe I am leaning into who I actually am. I am not quite sure, yet. I am working on it. It has been almost two years since I received a diagnosis no one ever wanted to hear. Almost a year since I went through something so traumatic that it almost took my life. I often wondered how people that have such a diagnosis carried on in remission. Did they worry? Did they not care? Did they lean on their faith? I am learning that as a survivor you do all of those things. There are days when I know that God kept me here for a reason; and that I am not done, yet. Then, there are days where I cry my eyes out for fear that I will someday leave my daughter too soon. That is the fear: leaving her in this world without me.
Since going back to work a year ago, I gained
a newfound love for what I do. It came with
a promotion and a great sense of accomplishment. I can say that for the first time in my adult career, post undergrad, I actually feel like I have a work-life balance. Sure, I am tired most days, due to the meds l continually take, but it is a good tired. The side effects from the medications are starting to taper off, and I actually have energy to leave my house on weekends. No one tells you that there are days that you will feel like you cannot get out of bed. It sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not. It physically and emotionally hurts to get out of bed some days. There was and is a real depression. A depression that can take you to dark places, if you let it. I had to be honest with myself that something was wrong. I had to get it out. I remember telling my colleague when I was first diagnosed that I was going to just get through this, not let it define me, keep my head down, push through, and act as if it never happened. That is not what happened. I was forced in so many ways to be honest with myself that I was terrified. I was forced to share with my family that I was terrified. When I told my parents, I downplayed it. I wanted them to think I was okay, so that they would be okay. I am my mom's only, my dad's oldest, and I had to keep it together for everyone. I have a daughter who was only six and a husband who I now know was really in complete shock. We have this life, a household, and a child in private school, which means a lot is expected. We had work events, social events. How is all of this supposed to change now? It had to change.
In April of 2019, I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with my cousin. She had another ticket, and I thought it would be great to get away. Also, it was April, so it was a year prior that I had been diagnosed. I thought I could party, like it was 1999 and be okay. The trip was amazing. I had fun talking with my cousin, but I was not okay. I came home from my trip and totally ignored my family. I hardly talked to my husband. I acted like he did something wrong. If I stayed angry at everyone, then I would not have to sit and deal with my feelings, right? I could just blame it all on him. I had been home for about a week and just did not speak to him. I remember coming out of the shower and walking into my living room, looking for my slippers. He sat at the dining room table, and I just fell apart. I do not know what was said. I just lost it. He got up, he held me, and said, “I knew this was coming”. He saw my breakdown before I even realized what I was doing. I have a Masters in Psychology Counseling, and I never once thought that anything was wrong. I realized in that moment that I had never been completely emotionally vulnerable with my husband. I would always let him know when something or someone upset me, but not when I felt emotionally out of control.
After this, I knew that I needed to do something about the way that I felt. At this time, I was literally in bed from Friday, after work, until Monday, when I had to go back to work. I went to my physician, and my husband went with me. We decided on therapy and an antidepressant. Yes, I take an antidepressant. It is needed. It is not a fix. It is an addition to my therapeutic plan. It has helped, but it has taken some getting used to. It does not take away what I feel. It helps me cope, and therapy helps me talk it out with someone impartial. Most days, I am good. I have not had a very emotional day until today. One month from today, in 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was devastated. The emotions are beginning again because my body remembers the trauma; the emotional and the physical trauma that I went through. I will not rehash that here, but you can read my earlier posts about my journey. I am dealing pretty well. I think I will have an emotional couple of months, while these memories come back. However, I am learning that I cannot be afraid anymore. I focus more on being healthy and being there for my family. I spend more time at home with my husband and my daughter. My sister has moved to the area, so that helps me more than she realizes. I am getting there. I know this is a long road, and for anyone who is going through anything similar, it is going to be okay. The best advice I have had so far came from a woman I was in a survivor's exercise class with. She has been cancer free for almost 15
years. I asked her how she coped with wondering if it would ever come back. She said, “I don't worry about any of that. It will drive you crazy. Focus on the love you have, focus on the life you have, and do everything to stay healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It will all be okay. We will be alright”. I stopped worrying. I need to be present and live my life as I am supposed to. I am growing.