One would think that this assignment should be easy, but for some reason I had a hard time finding all the right words. I wanted to make sure that I wrote something that would be helpful to someone just starting out, but at the same time not sugar coat anything. I eventually sat down and was able to crank it out. Here's what I wrote...
Beth Gibbons, 2+ year Breast Cancer Survivor
I was a happy, 28 year old, mother of two and nursing student, when my husband found a lump in my breast. I knew that I should get it checked, but decided I was too busy and didn't have the time to deal with it. Three months later, just after graduation, I finally made an appointment. Although my doctor felt it was probably nothing, he sent me for testing. Those tests revealed that I had a 6 cm tumor in my left breast that was Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I had breast cancer at the age of 29!!
After getting my diagnosis, my head was in a whirlwind. The thoughts of going through chemotherapy treatments, my long hair falling out, losing part or all of my breast, and having radiation, sent me off the deep end. I was overwhelmed, crying, and unable to sleep. I had the support of my friends and family, but yet I felt so alone. How was I ever going to make it through this?!
After taking some time to feel sorry for myself, I detached from what was going on. I like to call it going into my "denial bubble". This allowed me to feel like I was watching someone else live my nightmare. I could then laugh and joke about how I was going to be the person standing there with a crooked wig and be oblivious, or while walking down the street, the wind blow it off and I would have to chase after it.
I stopped thinking about everything I was going to have to do and started to think about what I needed to do right now. Taking each day, one step at a time, along with humor and distraction, I made it through chemo, having both of my breasts removed, radiation, and it is now getting me through my reconstruction. My advice to anyone who is just starting their fight is to do the same thing. Don't let cancer consume you. Live your life, one day at a time. If necessary, one minute or even second at a time.
Although I am done with my treatment, I still need to remind myself of this advice. It is hard to move on with life and not let fear take over. There are always going to be doctor's appointments to remind me that the cancer could come back. I still struggle at times, but then I stop myself, step back, and look at how much I have to be thankful for. My breasts may be fake, I have scars front and back, but I AM ALIVE!!!
I have found a wonderful support system through the Young Survival Coalition (www.youngsurvival.org). There are tons of young women dealing with the exact same issues and feeling the same things that I am. I can talk about anything and someone there will always relate. Not only do I receive support, but I also get to give it. To me, that is invaluable.
Make sure you check out Jean's site. She is an amazing woman and her site is a great resource.
Jean, thank you for the opportunity to work with you. Let's stay in touch!