July, 14, 2021. I’m not usually a big celebratory person but reaching 5 years since diagnosis really is a huge milestone! Triple-negative breast cancer grows and spreads faster, has limited treatment options and a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer. Making it to the 5-year survival point is amazing and certainly wasn’t a guarantee. I’m not completely out of the woods, and never will be, but my chances of recurrence have lessened significantly because I’ve made it this far. Huge thanks to all my doctors, modern medicine and everyone that came before me and participated in clinical trials!
When I think about the last 5 years, it’s wild to look back on all that’s happened. What does cancer and survivorship look like behind the scenes?
- 72 (in treatment) and 182 (post-treatment) doctor’s appointments (yes, I track every appointment since cancer)
- Too many days to count with severe tension headaches and/or migraines
- Cancer recurrence scares consisting of neurological-type symptoms, mass found on my liver (benign), unexplained hip pain and more. What’s the new normal? Forever figuring that one out.
- Therapy and antidepressant medication to cope with depression and the mental health impacts of cancer, survivorship, isolation, fear of recurrence and recently fear of Covid after cancer
- Tears, lots of them
- 18 post-treatment scans (MRIs, PET scans, CT scans, EEGs, EKGs, mammograms and ultrasounds) – all clear and I’m beyond grateful for that!
- Loads of holistic/palliative care from support group meetings to physical therapy to oncology acupuncture and massage
- 3 rounds of post-treatment IVF egg retrievals because chemo affects fertility and it’s hard to make egg preservation decisions at 25 years old when it will delay cancer treatment
And then we have normal life events!
- 2 public health jobs with 3 promotions
- 3 states lived in
- 7 countries visited
- Our sweet puppy, Ivy, added to the family
- 1 trip to Rwanda to see my girls graduate and share my love of the country with Ilan
- 1st home purchased
- Married the love of my life
- Covid vaccine (!!!) and surviving the pandemic (so far)
- And countless adventures with family and friends
When I look back on the last 5 years, I see a lot of struggles, pain, isolation and doctor appointments (!) but I also see strength, resilience, adventure and joy. Life may be much harder since cancer, but I am so grateful for my family and friends for helping me along the way. I’m just a person doing what I can with the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful support system.
I do have to give a special shout out to Ilan, who has been the best thing to come from this situation. It isn’t easy dating someone with cancer (especially when it’s the start of the relationship) and it’s certainly not easy learning how to navigate survivorship as partners. However, despite the massive roller coaster ride, he has been my rock and the most loving, patient and understanding partner. I’m so lucky to call him my husband and best friend. ❤️
In honor of reaching the 5 year mark, I decided to donate my hair by the end of 2021. It’s not quite long enough at the time of writing this but it’s getting there! I used to donate my hair before cancer and I knew it would feel even more meaningful this time. I’ll definitely post about it when that happens!
Please always remember to check your body and reach out to your doctor with any concerns. I cannot emphasize enough how important it really is. Also, keep checking in on any family or friends struggling with illness; it means a lot! Stay healthy, friends!