Shelley D. on January 6, 2018
I was Diagnosed with:
Breast cancer, IDC, er+pr+her2-
Type and Description of Treatments:
I had a lumpectomy, an axillary lymph node dissection, five months of chemo (ACT), 6 weeks of radiation, a bilateral breast reduction and skin graft, and I am almost 2 years into tamoxifen.
How do you feel today?
I feel great today. I am trying to embrace the new year, and looking forward to making changes in my life that will positively impact others.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?
I take life much slower. I get tired very easily, and some days I struggle with bone and joint pain. Some days, the neuropathy in my feet kicks up an extra fuss. I have struggled to regain my physical stamina, but every additional surgery or illness sets me back significantly. I am learning that I can't do it all, so I focus on priorities and let the rest go. I also take my loved ones less for granted. They matter more than anything on the world to me.
What is going well for you right now?
I eased back into working a year ago, at a much lower level than I am used too. It turned out to be the correct decision. I am much less stressed, and doing more technical work instead of management has allowed me to cope with my chemo brain, and learn how to live with it.
What is not going well for you right now?
The anxiety and PTSD are real. Every time I feel that I have it under control, the panic attacks strike out of nowhere. I look for triggers, but much of the time, I just don't see one. Meditation has helped greatly, however.
What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?
The most challenging part about cancer is the loss of control. I can make decisions about treatment or medication, but the truth is that cancer took over my life, and may try again. And even now, I feel as though it is in the back of my head. I am trying to learn to live my life as I wish, but I will always know the disease is something that I can never dictate.
When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?
I go to my online support group. I've been with some of these ladies for over two years and they are my family. They understand. Either they cheer me up, or I can help them and take the focus off of me.
How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?
Honestly, due to the financial toll, I'm not as sure about my long term goals for retirement. I may have to work longer. If I'm even still around, who knows. But I have also changed my professional goals. I would like to do something more meaningful, and help others on this path.
What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?
I am a contract employee. I'm full time, but as a contractor it is easier to work fewer hours if I need to, or take time off when I am sick.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?
I don't want the stress of an executive position. I am now back in a more technical position, and I love that it is just me and my computer working with numbers. I remember now why I started in this field.
What has helped you continue to work the most?
The company I am working for has been great about flexibility so I can be off when I need to. I honestly don't know how else I would manage. Even now, i have constant doctors' appointments, and days that I just feel awful.
What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?
Do what you can. I did not work during treatment, but I know others who did. Be honest about what you can manage. And know that there is no shame in admitting you need to rest.
How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?
You have to take side effects one day at a time. Some I treat with medication, some with supplements and diet, and some with exercise. It took experimentation to find what worked for each one. Don't be afraid to keep looking for a solution. I have also found that my primary care doctor has been much more proactive about helping me with long term side effects than my other doctors.
If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?
This is a lifelong diagnosis. There will be good days and very black days. But take it one day at a time (or one hour at a time) and try yo not lose Night of the basura in life. And find a support group. Your family and friends can only help you so much - others who have been through it will understand what you need without question.