“As I sat on my couch, my family asleep, I cried alone as my eyelashes fell out into my weeping eyes. I cried alone, not because I couldn’t cry in front of others, but because I worry about how my family and loved ones see… How they could handle seeing me like this. Chemo isn’t easy. Not easy on the body, mind, and soul. I have been stripped from the basic needs to be… self-confident. I won’t lie to you, I missed who I was. I missed my 20’s wavy hair, my ability to leave the house without fear of freezing my ears off or being stared at. Nose bleeds almost every day due to losing my nose hairs and scratching my nose, having no idea that would happen. Who would have thought about losing your nose hair? I cry because I don’t want to add more sorrow to those who love me. I see them struggle on a day to day basis with my treatments, my mastectomy, and my pain. I sit here at four A.M, all is quiet, all is peaceful just for now. I just wonder, ‘Is this really happening to me?’ I always tried to be the one that everyone can come to for advice, and for care, and now I am stripped down to my core, hoping that I can find the support I need.’
I found out that I had invasive dual carcinoma on the Friday before Thanksgiving. I thought ‘OK, I can do this.’ Everyone is coming here for dinner, and I will have to tell them sooner or later. I will put a smile on my face, I will make this big Thanksgiving dinner and we will have a good celebration. Who was I kidding, though? My kids are all well into adulthood at this point, and they have the right to know… But my 5 grandkids…. It has to be explained to them in a proper way. I needed to be transparent with both my children and grandchildren. That weekend, my youngest son, 24 yrs old, paid a visit in person to his other siblings to tell them the news about this newly discovered invasive breast cancer. My mother, 83 years old and healthy as a horse, arrived early as always. We all said a prayer, wept together… And began this journey together.
When my hair began to fall out, my children came over, along with my wonderful cousin. They gathered around me, each taking turns cutting off locks of my hair to send in for a wig. I was always the one cutting my kids hair… I never thought that I would be put in the chair! We had our favorite oldies station playing in the background. As we were well towards cutting half of my hair off, we got very emotional and all came in for a group hug. But, what song could have come on, but ‘Lean on Me?’ I began to feel that my journey was going to be worth it. This moment was the epitome of the love and support one can feel from their family.
My kids then created a closed Facebook support group for me. At first, I didn’t want to do this, because I didn’t want to put this struggle out to my friends. I felt strong enough to stick to myself, and my close family, but I agreed it was the right thing to do. I mean, it can’t hurt, can it? After we started that group, I got the greatest rewards. My friends stuck with me through thick and thin, sharing words of encouragement, and cooking full meals for myself and family. I didn’t have to cook for a week, sometimes!
Several of my friends even cut their hair in support of my cause, and some of their cut hair was long enough to be added to my wig. I was truly NOT alone. Even two of my granddaughters cut their hair for the first time so that they could have their hair added to ‘Mema’s wig.’ They also sent me beautiful letters, from my youngest granddaughter (4 yrs) to my oldest (8yrs). I was receiving beautiful bouquets of flowers at least once a week, hand knit hats from longtime friends, and more food than my family could even eat. There were also bins at the cancer center with hand-knit hats, which I gave some to the grandkids to cheer them up when they came over :).
People often describe having cancer as a battle. I never knew how true that was, and how deep it goes until I faced it. It’s not just a battle to live with the knowledge that your life is at stake, and only time will be the judge; It’s a battle to walk at times, to smile, to not be able to taste your favorite foods or to face your own flaws and embrace yourself. In this battle, though, you’re not alone. You have an army. Your army is your friends, family, your guides, wonderful nurses, ancestors or God. Call on your army to win the battle through hope, prayer, positive vibes and laughter. I believe God has a way of bringing humor into even the darkest of times. For example, before I went into surgery for my mastectomy, I met my Anesthesiologist, Dr. Boobie. My surgeon’s name was Dr. King… I felt perfectly safe with Boobie King taking care of me (Yes, that’s their real names). How could I help myself but crack up all the way into the surgery room!
Though it wasn’t easy knowing a part of me would never come back, I still had righty, because lefty stayed in the hospital that day. Lefty did its job, it fed four babies, its time was up! It’s important to accept this diagnosis and fight with everything you’ve got. I never expected to get cancer. I thought I always did what was right for my body… But, sometimes that doesn’t matter. Reading that one in eight women get it and that one in three people will have some form of cancer in their life was a shock to me. If there’s anything that I can truly give the reader, it’s the life lessons and tips that I have gotten through this battle. Take it one day at a time. Cherish every moment, because we are not promised tomorrow. Accept the help that is offered to you… It’s ok. Your hair will grow back, it’s just a small part of your body. This is all worth it. You are worth it. Each day, find something to be grateful for and write it down on an index card or in a journal. Give in to the tiredness, and take naps, don’t fight it. Drink water, then drink some more water. Hospital volunteers will touch your heart. Nice hot baths will help with the pain (a good bath bomb is a bonus). A nice hot cup of tea can bring a bit of life back into you.
The greatest gift that I have been given is the love I have received. People that I didn’t even know heard about my struggle and donated as well as sent prayers. The power of love is so unimaginably strong. Now my army has done its job, and I’m winning the battle. Always remember, there is something to be grateful for every day. Our circumstances in life can seem overwhelming, but there is always a little bit of good in the bad. Life is what you make of it… The phrase never resonated to me as it does now. The lessons I’ve learned from this has helped me become a stronger person and given me a brighter outlook on life. It may sound strange to say that if I had to do this all over again, I wouldn’t change it. You can’t change fate, but there is no greater feeling than the love I’ve felt from my family, friends and even strangers. To those who are suffering, or just got diagnosed, I encourage you: Put together your army and go fight your battle. You are not alone in this fight.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Robin Roy of Willington, CT. A version of her story can be found on Reddit here. You can learn more about her journey to recovery on her GoFundMe. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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