(a MRI scan from the past 6 months. It seems they have found a need to scan my abdomen my wrist, my Brian, and my spine, but not the most important)
As promised, I have addressed the silence and I am opening the door back up. Here is a little glimpse into what has been going on in my world. A few months ago I shared that I had reached the 2 year anniversary of the day I started chemo. Although it was a VERY busy day at work, I was taken back to that pivotal moment in my journey with breast cancer more times than I can count. I was hopeful to be on the other side of things, and very grateful to finally be getting a little bit of my pre-cancer life back. However if you have ever faced cancer you know that it doesn’t take much to rip each and every hopeful thought out of your mind and replace it with doubt, sadness, and fear. Shortly after posting on my cancerversary, I unintentionally ran my fingers across my breast area as I so often do without even giving it a second thought now. After having breast cancer you do not have to put a self breast exam reminder on your calendar as the thought crosses your mind every single day there after. But this time something was different, my fingers came to a screeching halt and stopped quickly at the edge of a lump I hadn’t yet felt. My world stopped. I could feel the heat or fiery burn of an anxiety-induced hot flash rushing up from my legs and arms and filling my body. All of a sudden, my mind started racing and filled with fear. My very first thought was, my cancer is back, and then the cycle started. Everyone cancer patient faces the reality that their cancer could return at any moment, and move to other parts of the body. In a way, I have actually made peace with what I cannot control and I have whole-heartedly promised that if my cancer does come back, I will again fight with everything I have in me. However that peace is still not preparation for your worst fear unfolding in front of you.
For me, my life has just started to normalize as I am finally back to work, I am just now getting compliments on the hairstyle that I didn’t choose, and have even started wearing my converted head scarfs as neck scarfs again. I have gotten used to being the .1% in that if something can go wrong it typically does with me, but I have stayed hopeful that my treatments worked and my cancer is gone forever. Although my inner optimism was trying to take control, the lump felt hard, it didn’t really move much, and it did not hurt which I know are all symptoms of a malignant breast mass. To make matters worse, the lump was in the exact same location as the very lump I found two years ago. I looked for any rationale I could find for the lump, but my mind was already spiraling out of control. I thought about how awful the treatments were on my body the first time around and worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace I have been working at in my personal life, with my advocacy, and with my work schedule. I worried about the fact that if my cancer had returned there is an even grater chance that it has moved even further than the lymph nodes and how at this stage oncologists no longer entertain the word cure. In an instant my mind again shifted gears and halted as I realized that I still have not had the breast MRI that my oncologist has been ordering to confirm that my treatments worked in the first place because my insurance is denying me. I again saw the faces of 3 different Radiologists saying “ you really need to get an MRI, because that is the only way we will be able to see the chest wall to confirm that the treatments killed the cancer cells that were left after your bilateral mastectomy”. Did the chemo and the radiation treatments work? Did the fact that my chemotherapy regimen had to be dose reduced by 20% make the treatments ineffective? After all, I was only able to receive 80% of the cancer killing drugs that are known to kill my form of cancer. And the obvious thought of having positive margins after surgery push it over the edge. My greatest fears were already coming to life in my mind. The dose-reduced chemotherapy regimen was no match for the cancer that was left after my Mastectomy and it really had been growing in my body ever since. Have I really been walking around with cancer in my body all this time? My heart was racing and my mind was spinning out of control. I thought about the conversation that I had with my nurse a few weeks back in sharing a dream that I had where I realized that the people who make the biggest difference in the world, do so because they ultimately die trying. I remember the goosebumps running up my neck when I actually muttered the words, “Seay, what if I am meant to bring my cause to the forefront of people’s minds, but I am meant to loose my life in the process to serve as an example. I remembered that I told her I was at peace with what I could not control and I have already committed myself to a cause that choose me but, and at the same time I am not ready. I will never be ready. Before I knew it all I could focus on was the words that John and Cindy, two friends who were taken by cancer, said to me in their final days…. “I am not ready to die, there is still so much more I want to see and do”. That thought. That truth. That has been my biggest and greatest fear since I heard the dreadful words. Having no choice in the matter and knowing that you will be taken is a terrible thought. Accepting that my greatest fear could someday become my reality has been the hardest aspect of healing through breast cancer.