“Hi, I have some really bad news. You have ductal carcinoma and it is pretty aggressive.”
I almost dropped the phone when I heard those words. I can only compare the urgency in my doctor’s voice to someone on television warning of an impending natural disaster: there is nothing you can do but seek shelter immediately. I felt a proverbial black cloud roll in over me, and then, I started taking stock in every moment that led up to this one.
I had met the man of my dreams. I was two semesters away from finishing Graduate school and already had two degrees. I had an awesome career and was financially stable. I just got a new puppy to fill the void in my heart left by my two dogs who had passed after 10 and 12 years. I had a beautiful home and plenty of vehicles. I had great friends and a loving family. I had honorably served my country for 8 years. I graduated high school on the honor roll. I had pretty hair and eyelashes. I had great boobs that sat perfectly on my small frame. My life was almost perfect.
The months that followed were nothing short of devastating. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and found out I was BRCA2 positive. I had months of chemotherapy, most of which I was allergic to and left me physically weak and constantly in pain. I had radiation that burned my skin and made me feel fatigued. Because of the BRCA gene, I also had an oophorectomy so I could minimize my chances of getting ovarian cancer. I was put on hormone-based chemotherapy for the next 10 years of my life. The medication initially made my hair fall out and increased the bone aches that started after my first chemo infusion. It was like going through hell all over again. At times, I wished I had never found out or survived. I was angry…really fucking angry…
“Find your new normal, dear.”
These were the words a counselor spoke to me that turned things around. I no longer wanted to talk about what I “had” and lost. I just wanted to start looking forward. I did not want to dwell on my feelings of anger and despair. I no longer wanted to focus on being depressed or feeling sorry for myself. This was my light at the end of the tunnel, and the journey is still not over yet.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is my “new” normal. This blog is devoted to the lessons I am learning and experiences I am having. My focus is not on what is behind me, but rather what is happening right now – and what the future will bring. There are a lot of things I wish someone would have told me, but I also believe that folks need to find out for themselves. No one can say magic words and make it all better; what works for some, does not for others. I hope some of what I write about helps someone find their “new” normal.