Happy Birthday to Me and Welcoming a New Year

This past year is a bit of a blur in different ways. There are so many ways I could talk about my experiences, hopeful, angry, sad, scared – there are so many emotions tied to the cancer roller coaster. Here is the video I made after I finished radiation with photos from my treatment:

Last night I got the rude awakening that I am not out of the woods yet. I was running a fever, I was sooo cold that under 6 blankets and a robe I was shivering. I called the on call physician, I was at 100.8 when I called, he explained that it was most likely an infection and sent me to a 24 hour pharmacy to get back on Augmentin (one of the “big guns” antibiotics, sooo been there and done that, I believe it was originally described to me as causing “sudden and unexpected diarrhea”). I was told that I got to go hang at the ER if I got up to 102. I reached 101.9 which wasn’t 102 so I stayed home. Today I have a mild fever, but it is not peaking into the danger zone. My hope for today is to be able to celebrate my birthday at home rather than a hospital (fingers crossed). I am drama, I swear… Nothing seems to ever go quite as planned.

I love that the American Cancer Society is the Official Sponsor of Birthdays. Today is my 32nd birthday, and I no longer grit my teeth at getting older, instead I celebrate another year of life.

My little brother posted this on Facebook yesterday:

“Exactly one year ago my sister called me to me to me she has stage IIb (in lymph nodes) grade III (very aggressive) breast cancer at the age of 31. I remember vividly driving into work on a snowy day to take care of something on my day off. I was scared and crying when my sister said she had a 2.5cm tumor. My sister is one of my favorite people (if not my favorite) in my life and is my muse (I have to include my mom in the muse category.)

Now a year later her treatment is finished. I’m often asked if her cancer is “gone.” There are no guarantees in life and if it comes back it would most likely happen in the next five years, and that is why she is on a drug called Tamoxifen (it messes with her body’s estrogen) for that time period.

They say breast cancer will occur in 1/8 women in the US during their lifetime. If caught early, it is very treatable. Women should start having mammograms at age 40 or earlier if you have other risk factors. Self checks are important because that’s how my sister caught hers.

My sister kept saying “I don’t know how anyone could go through this alone,” when she would see people alone at appointments. She had a wicked awesome support group, from her husband, friends, family and even strangers who had gone through the same thing. My family is very excited to put 2011 behind us, and this will hopefully be my last post about breast cancer.”

Everyone assumes that you are automatically in remission after you finish your treatment (which when you include Tamoxifen, which I start again next Tuesday) I have 5 years left in my cancer treatment. That is 6 years. Anyone who has had cancer or has been close to someone who has had cancer knows that the real fight actually starts after treatment. What this also means is that I can’t even consider having children until I am 37 (it was never in the big plans, but life changes). If I am still able to have children.

You fight the “what if’s” what if I am not here 5 years from now (recurrence usually occurs year 2-3 but can happen as far as 10 years out). Recurrence is stage 4 for me, and there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. What if I am making the wrong choices in my life if I have a limited life in front of me? Everyone wants to hear that I am fine, and when it comes to the battles of chemo, radiation etc. I am great! I don’t look sick (of course I didn’t when we found out either). It is frustrating at times for my family because all we can do now is wait and hope. For now I stand in Cancer Limbo Land (best described by another blogger).

What I have learned this year:

Let others help you

I am stubborn, I want to do everything and I hate to have to rely on other people. One of my early lessons was to take a step back and accept help from others. I have made new friendships with women going through treatment, those who had been before me, deepened my relationship with my extended family and developed a whole new level of trust and love with my husband. I have needed and am grateful for the help I have received.

Family is important

For years I have been craving moving somewhere tropical and warm, but having my support group close really makes me rethink the whole moving thing. I want to stay close to my family so that we can celebrate life. I always had a big crew when it was time to go to chemo, surgery or my appointments. Cancer is a very lonely thing and I was never alone. Mike and I have been pretty inseparable this past year.

Don’t wait for happiness to come to you, create your own happiness

I do my fair share of complaining, but I try to find the funny and the good in the most difficult of situations. If you spend your life complaining about how bad everything is for you, you are probably missing all of the good things that you have. It is really the little things that make life so grand, enjoy the little things when you can.

I hope everyone has a safe and very Happy New Year! Let’s make 2012 the best year EVER!.

Author: Mandi

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