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The Battle I Choose Not to Lose

by Cindy BernardPatient, Breast CancerFebruary 27, 2023View more posts from Cindy Bernard

The Battle I Choose Not to Lose

With no history of breast cancer in my family, it was something I wouldn’t think would happen to me. It was out of the ordinary to feel the sharp pain. I shrugged it off at first until I felt something in my breast. I was confident it was an abscess because I’d had one before.

I went to the emergency room at 3 AM without telling anyone. It’s like I knew something wasn’t right. The doctor at the hospital explained that the lump I was feeling was a cyst, and they are common for women my age. It all happened so suddenly. The nurse told me to get my cyst examined as soon as possible because the sudden growth was alarming.

I’ve never visited a gynecologist, which made things awkward. The gynecologist sent me for an ultrasound once she felt the lump. The process happened so quickly that I was losing myself in the doctor’s appointments. I reached out to a friend to let her know something was wrong. She tried to comfort me, but the unknown was always scary.

The ultrasound led to a biopsy. Time went by as I waited for the results. I contacted my gynecologist to find out if the results had arrived. Nothing.

Several days passed until December 16th, I was seated at my desk talking to a friend at work. My phone notified me that my results had arrived. I gave the phone to my friend who looked at it. In bold, it read, “Invasive ductal carcinoma.” At that point, I had no idea what it meant. My friend looked up in shock to tell me it was breast cancer.

It couldn’t be. What I thought was an abscess was a tumor within a matter of a couple of weeks. I’m only 29. How could this be happening? I couldn’t bear the news and did what I knew best, teach. I acted like nothing was wrong, but in reality, everything was wrong.

I didn’t tell anyone for several days until I confirmed it. I told my immediate family, and telling them felt like I was failing them. It was devastating for my mother. All I could do was tell her that I would be ok.

I went through four sessions of Adriamycin (known as Red Devil) and twelve rounds of Taxol. Due to COVID, I was allowed one visitor for the first round. I had to be strong for my friend because I didn’t want her to stress. That was the type of person I was through treatment. I could I have bad days and still be in a cheerful mood. In reality, I felt like my world was falling apart. The fatigue, nausea, lethargy, and dizziness were unbearable.

I did the majority of the treatments alone. I once spent nine hours at the hospital for a blood transfusion and fluids because my white blood count was so low. I just did what I had to do when it came to treatment. It took my energy and the life I had away from me.

I turned thirty years old with breast cancer. I spent Christmas and New Year preparing for treatment. I was emotionless. I didn’t feel anything through treatment. I was just fighting to live. I still am.

Breast Cancer took away my breasts, my ability to have children, and my time. I had a double mastectomy, lymph node removal, and a Salpingo oophorectomy, all within the Summer. The time frame of the surgeries was weeks apart. The recovery process was painful physically and mentally. My depression grew stronger because I felt alone.

“You are young.”

“You will be in remission before you know it.”

“You will be fine.”

Throughout my battle, people have tried to comfort me. That made me feel like they didn’t understand me.

I tested positive for BRCA 2, which made things even more complicated. It’s difficult to explain that everything I’ve done has been to not only remove the tumor but also prevent it from recurring.

The thing about cancer is that it can change at any time. My treatment plan changed when my left breast tested positive for the HER 2 receptor. Unfortunately, this means that the cancer is more aggressive. Currently, I am on Herceptin and Perjeta for a year and radiation.

My life will never be the same, and the fear of recurrence will always be on my mind. Having breast cancer, I’ve been grateful to meet new people through this diagnosis. I’ve also received support from people at work, family, and organizations.

I’m learning to accept that I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life. I have developed lymphedema, which limits my arm movement, struggle with joint pain, fatigue, digestive problems, and the stress of the unknown. Breast cancer took over my life, but I’m fighting to get it back.

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