Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Young Breast Cancer Survivor?????

Me when I was about 2 years old. I was just bopping over at the Health Central's Breast Cancer site...and took at look at the Young Breast Cancer Survivor area. Funny....I still feel like a young breast cancer survivor. However, in looking at these posts and the information there, I realize I don't qualify anymore, even though I was once there. I've been there, I've done that...and I'm still working on raising my daughter.
When I was first diagnosed, my daughter was about the same age as I am in this picture. However, she couldn't walk (except by holding on to my pinkie tip...she was an early and awesome crawler). When I went through chemo, it was tough. I had only left work a little more than a year earlier. My friends all worked. My family was all on the west coast. My husband's family (for the most part) lived in Florida. As I didn't get married until I was 30, and had my daughter just shy of my 33rd birthday, my husband's family in the area were all older.
Getting things taken care of was difficult. I think this was my greatest worry and my greatest struggle. We worked it so that when I got treatment, my husband stayed home that day with my daughter, and I drove myself the half-hour trip to get my chemo hits. I got the treatment on Monday morning's and was released usually at about 3:30 - 4:00 p.m . I'd drive home, eat something, and then at about 6:00 I'd start throwing up. Every hour on the hour.
The next day, I'd be in a Decadron stupor while my husband, or his aunts would come and look after my daughter. On Wednesday, I'd throw up in the morning, and then be weak, but I'd then take care of my daughter. Needless to say, we watched a lot of videos and I read her a lot of books.
When my hair started falling out, I asked my husband to shave my head. He couldn't do it, so I asked my best friend to come over. She and her husband came, and we all had dinner. We put my daughter to bed, then went out on the deck. First, Martha roughly cut my hair with scissors. She kept on saying how she felt like she was at a concentration camp. After the major whack job, she shaved it. Life felt so much better as it felt like each individual hair follicle had a headache...getting rid of the hair meant that I didn't have to worry about it falling into my food or all over the house.
The next morning when I got up, my daughter looked at me, then patted her own head...I suppose to make sure that her hair was still there. I'll never forget that perplexed look that she had.
My biggest worry was during radiation. What would I do with my daughter? I couldn't get her into a daycare for only 1 1/2 hours every day for 7 weeks. I asked the volunteer services. While I could get people to drive me to and from my appointments, which I didn't need, no one would look after my daughter, even though she was an easy child.
When I voiced this concern to the hospital social worker right after having had my surgery, her response was "You mean to tell me you can't find someone to look after her?" No. I only lived in the town I lived in for a year before she was born. My family lived far away. It was such a short time, but I was without aid.
Because of this problem, I lobbied for the hospital daycare to be opened for patients who needed help in this area. I didn't mind paying, but I needed some resource. After all the majority of the time I spent in radiation was actually traveling to and from the appointments. The actual treatment time was about 30 minutes.
As it worked out, one of the techs walked around and around the halls with my daughter pushing her doll stroller stuffed full of stuffed animals, and one Water Baby doll. I know that she brought lots of sunshine to all the other patients. You could see them smile and brighten up when they saw her. She was a happy child and very out going.
The second go around when she was 5, it was easier. There were friends from church and her pre-school. I also found a day care for the days I got treatment or had appointments.
Still, I wonder. She doesn't remember much of me reading to her. She remembers going to other people's houses and staying with them. She remembers my nurses and techs from the early treatment. She doesn't remember much of what I did with her, only what others did.
I often wonder if her hard-heartedness is a coping mechanism from my having had cancer--walling off others because she might lose them. I am fearful that she will have cancer even younger than I did.
Having more children was an issue for me. My oncologist was amazed that I never missed a period through all of my treatments, even when I had the Taxol. I managed to come through the chemo and still got pregnant....but it seems that perhaps the pregnancy spurred my recurrence. I don't know, but I do find it interesting that each time I was diagnosed was right after I had been pregnant, even though I lost the second pregnancy.
Still, I look at those fresh young faces over on the website, and all I can think is that I am no longer young, even though I am younger than many breast cancer survivors. I'm middle aged. Regardless of the fact that I went through what these women are going through now, 11 years ago...almost 12 years now, and I looked much like them, I'm sure that they would think that I have nothing at all in common with them....save that I have shared this dread disease.

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