Cancer - the word and the experience that left me speechless...until now. I think I'm ready to finally talk about it.

In June of 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it has been a very long, almost 2 years, of dealing with the treatment, the after effects of surgery and treatment as well as the continual follow up maintenance visits to the Oncology Centre.  All this time I have been unable to talk about it in great detail.  Not with anyone.  Not even my family or my very own husband.  Not even my Heavenly Father.  Oh, I prayed for strength....but I just could not talk about how I felt about what I was going through.....and what my family was/is still going through. When asked about it, I would give some very short perfunctory answer and then move the conversation along to something else.  I just decided at the time that the whole experience was too big to deal with.  Even too big to think of dealing with.  So, I put it all neatly away in a box thinking that I will get to THAT at some time in the future....perhaps when I felt strong enough to piece through it all.  I have already been through all the physical pain of the illness and it's treatment but the emotional pain just seems too overwhelming to dwell on.  For a long time I have been carrying this big, heavy box with me....everyday and everywhere I go.  I decided this very morning that I am just tired of it.  I feel like I need to unpack it and sort through it and get rid of what I don't want to keep.  That sounds quite funny doesn't it? lol...
thinking about this whole experience as some sort of "moving house" box that needs to be unpacked.....but that's the way that it feels to me.  I've decided that I will write about it alittle at a time.....I don't think that I can cope with more than that.  And I also thought that I would share some really basic important information about cancer by quoting passages from "The Cancer Coping Kit".   For a full, free downloadable copy please go to amongst the quoted passages, my own story will hereafter be written in grey to avoid any confusion.

PART ONE - The Cancer Experience

"The Cancer Coping Kit was developed to empower you to deal with cancer, by providing knowledge and understanding. Our goal is to equip you with practical tools for use in your daily life and to provide your family members and caregivers with information and knowledge, to make this journey easier".

I remember reading this about a week after I was first diagnosed. I was very angry.  I just could not understand why this had happened to me and I kept thinking to myself that no matter how much information I had that this was NOT going to be easy. Nine years earlier I had watched as my own mother battled through cancer and how it had eventually taken her life.  I realise now that my reaction was not just about my own diagnosis but about hers also.  I realise now that I felt utterly and entirely lost and scared and that everything that I had felt about losing her had suddenly come back to hit me squarely between the eyes. As it turns out....the information in this kit became a lifeline of sorts because it prepared me for what I might encounter along my journey and how to navigate each side effect when it came.  It became something that confirmed and reinforced that what I was feeling everyday and going through was normal for a person receiving cancer treatment. I found it strangely comforting.  I'm so glad that someone took the time to put it all together.

"Cancer affects men, woman and children.  It can occur at any age but it occurs more frequently as we get older"

I was 43 at the time of my diagnosis.  My mother was 60.

"Cancer is a disease that has been known and feared for many years.  It is not a single disease: there are over 300 different types.  The concept that it is not curable is not true, but it can be a serious illness.  If you had cancer in the early 1900's, you had little hope of long-term survival, but today your chances are greatly improved.  Some cancers are difficult to treat successfully while others have a high success rate.  Cancer is often treated as a chronic disease as modern treatments are able to control it.  It is no longer a death sentence."

My mother had lung cancer and she succumbed to it about 2 years after her diagnosis.  I had breast cancer and have been in remission now for 1 year this month.

"The exact causes of cancer are not known and very often no single cause can be found.  For a cancer to develop the cells have to be damaged over a long period of time.  This damage to cells can come from smoking, drinking too much alcohol, diet, hormonal influences, chemicals and many other factors.  Certain cancers such as breast, colon, melanoma and ovarian, are thought to have an inherited factor.  Stress levels will not cause cancer but can be a contributing factor."

My mom was a smoker for most of her life and she also had a hysterectomy in her forties and received hormone replacement therapy for many years.  I do not drink or smoke.  I had a hysterectomy at forty and have been overweight for most of my life. Before my diagnosis and since November of 2008 we had experienced tremendous life-changing stress.  We moved countries twice, started new jobs, sent children to school after years of homeschooling, held time-consuming and emotionally taxing callings at church, dealt with several break-ins and 1 hi-jacking, suffered financial depletion, mourned the death of two loved ones and survived a car accident. It's been a tough few years.   My family history speaks volumes too.  My grandfather died of stomach cancer. My aunt died of  liver cancer.  Two of my mother's younger sisters have had breast cancer and are in remission while two of my cousins are currently receiving treatment for cancer.  All on my mother's side.  Really makes a person think doesn't it!

End of Part One.


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