This month the world is celebrating breast cancer awareness. Maybe “celebrating” isn’t the right word…as I can honestly tell you there is NOTHING about having breast cancer to celebrate! This month the world has focused on this horrific disease and bringing as much awareness and information as possible to women everywhere. One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer…and these statistics need to be reduced. For many, cancer doesn’t have a face until its yours or someone you know….and I know too many women, including my mother and now, well, I am that face.
I have seen so many posts, articles, blogs, podcasts from women sharing their stories; strong, brave and resilient women who have fought cancer and won. They are inspiring and I look to them with awe. Although I am cancer free after receiving a bilateral mastectomy and many subsequent surgeries, I don’t feel like I’ve won the battle. Cancer may have been removed from my body but it has left me battling chronic nerve pain and anxiety. There is no cure for the nerve pain…only medications that may or may not help. So far I have tried six different meds all with little or no relief. I have seen yet another pain specialist and she has suggested retrying some of the medications I took in the past but increasing the dosage from 40mg to 300mg. The medication lists a myriad of side effects, none of which are good. Most of them I experience anyway…fatigue, stomach pain, headaches, etc. Just once I would like to read the list of side effects on a prescription that said “may cause extreme beauty, increased intelligence and uncontrollable happiness.”
I have now been dealing with chronic pain for three years. Three years with little to no sleep. Although I take meds at night that are made to help me fall asleep, many nights the anxiety of anticipating another sleepless night interferes. If I do fall asleep, it doesn’t last long as the nerve pain that rushes over my body wakes me up. I then have to endure the pain, wait for it to subside and then try once again to get back to sleep. This pattern repeats itself throughout the night…every night. I never knew what chronic pain was until I caught myself one day staring into the mirror with tears streaming down my face begging my body to stop hurting and to hold on and be strong. It didn’t listen.
I know how lucky I am. I “beat” cancer, but the ramifications of the disease continue to beat me down every day. If you met me, you would probably say that I appear to be a very animated and upbeat person…and I am. You see me smiling and laughing and you think I’m ok. And that is how I want to be perceived and its how I truly want to be…but sometimes the most positive people among us are the ones who are smiling through silent pain, crying behind closed doors and fighting battles that nobody knows about. Being able to go about your day pain free is a blessing. Being able to get through the day without showing your pain is a skill. A skill I have honed to a sharp expertise. I refuse to wallow in my pain. I refuse to let it dictate how I spend my time. Every day I try to love my life more than I hate my pain. Some days are better than others but I continue to persevere.
For all those who have battled cancer and won, I salute you. For those of you who are in the trenches, fighting for your life, I see you, I feel you and I applaud your strength and resilience.
I am a survivor…but I continue to have to fight the scars that cancer has left behind. I will stay positive. I will not succumb to the pain. I will mask it with a smile. But just because I seem to carry this burden well, doesn’t mean that its not heavy.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.