healthy as a horse: what i learned while fighting breast cancer (guest post)
One of my goals with this site is to get people talking about things that are historically "hush-hush" (infertility, miscarriages, cancer, etc.) in the hopes we can shatter the stigma and openly support each other (both women and men). This is the next in a series of guest posts. - Kara
Healthy as a Horse
by Melissa Gollnick
|How to do a breast self-exam. |
Photo: Mayo Clinic.
Less than a week later, it was official…this 34-year-old had cancer.
Since then, I’ve had a sentinel lymph node biopsy and a port put in my chest. I’ve had blood work, x-rays, bone scans, MRIs, and heart scans. In addition to the breast surgeon, I have seen two plastic surgeons, an oncologist, and a radiation oncologist. Based on the test results, the doctors have told me that I’m healthy as a horse.
I could barely stop myself from snorting in disgust. How can you be healthy if you have cancer?
I have endured four of the most awful chemotherapy sessions that I could have imagined and nine chemotherapy sessions that have not been all that bad. I have three more chemo sessions ahead of me before completing this part of my treatment.
After four weeks to regain some strength and get my immune system up to par, I am having a mastectomy and tissue transfer reconstruction. After four weeks of recovery, I am having 28 sessions of radiation.
Throughout the past months, I only briefly wondered “Why ME?” Hell, with one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer, why not me?
But I have constantly wondered “WHY me?” I do not have the known genetic mutations. Is it the water that I drink? Is it because I don’t eat organic produce? Is it because I use Sweet N Low in my coffee? I’m slowly coming to the realization that I most likely won’t ever know why I got breast cancer.
And it sucks.
What I do know is that this is the most difficult thing that I have ever gone through. I’ve learned a number of things:
|There are many things learned while having breast cancer.|
Photo: Wonderful World of Nothing.
- I have learned that I’m stronger than I ever dreamed I could be.
- I’ve learned to have more good days than bad days.
- I’ve learned to laugh more often than I cry.
- I’ve learned that my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law are my heroes.
- I’ve learned that doctors and nurses can be absolutely amazing and they have every intention of saving my life.
- I’ve learned that it’s okay to sleep and rest.
- I’ve learned that it’s okay not to go to the gym five days a week.
- I’ve learned that I don’t look half-bad bald.
- I’ve learned to always wear lipstick, eyeliner, and earrings when I leave the house.
- I’ve learned that my friends are my friends for a reason.
- I’ve learned that it is possible to have good friends who you have never met or have only just met.
- I’ve learned to thank God every morning that I open my eyes and get out of bed.
Cancer is taking nine months of my life away from me. But I will gladly give up nine months of my life to live.
I still need to meet, fall in love with, and marry the man of my dreams. I need to see my niece and nephew grow up. I need to go to Florida to see the Phillies during Spring Training. I need to go to Ireland. I need to pay forward all of the love, kindness, generosity, and support that I’ve received in the past five months.
I will continue to fight. I will live.
Post script: Sadly, Melissa passed away on January 31, 2013. This was especially hard for me, as we'd known each other since elementary school. Much love to her family.