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Navigating the Uncharted Terrain of Cancer

by Tracy BrockSurvivor, Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer March 14, 2024View more posts from Tracy Brock

Navigating the Uncharted Terrain of Cancer: Who is She?

In the intricate tapestry of life, sometimes we find ourselves in unforeseen chapters that redefine who we are. My journey with cancer began with my mother’s diagnosis in her late 30s, a pivotal moment that shaped my own destiny. As her youngest child, I discovered I had inherited the aggressive gene that had nearly taken her away from me.

The revelation hit me like a tidal wave, propelling me through the stages of grief. It felt like I had been handed a ticking clock, urging me to live life fully—build a home, have children, explore the world—before succumbing to the same pain and stress that engulfed my mother. The haunting flashbacks of her battles with pain, the ill-fitted wigs, and the courageous attempts to maintain confidence all played out vividly in my mind. But I had time…didn’t I? My late 30’s were surely thousands of years away in my mind.

Fast forward to my present at 32, and I’ve been undergoing annual screenings since I was 25—no big deal at this point. This year, the routine took a different turn. Engaging in distracting hobbies, I awaited results that seemed to dance between conflicting information and bewildering directions. The day of reckoning arrived, my mother by my side, and as my doctor danced around the topic complimenting my blood results, we faced her with a very blunt, “Do I have cancer?”…After a long pause the word “yes” hung heavily in the air as the doctor confirmed my worst fears.

The journey that unfolded brought unexpected challenges. Distracting myself with tasks only heightened the exhaustion, and discussions about fertility and treatment took a toll on my emotional well-being. A self-proclaimed “strong one” in my family, I encountered a facet of the experience that no one prepared me for—the profound shift in my self-image.

Chemotherapy, with its myriad side effects, introduced me to a realm of discomfort I hadn’t anticipated.

I know it’s strange to say, but the person in the mirror can’t be me. Her face, round from steroids—no amount of my makeup routine could hide this imposter. The bags dangling from my chest collecting fluid made me feel like an alien creature. I couldn’t look at them without breaking down. No one told me how absolutely disturbing it would be to just not recognize yourself in the mirror. The girl in the mirror was pale with a green tint, bags under her eyes, puffy, struggling to stay awake for more than two hours at a time. The girl in the mirror was reverting to her days of body dysmorphic disorder, obsessed with tracing every single difference she could find while staring at pictures from just weeks ago when she was smiling outside. I was not me. She was weak, frail, a body holding the soul of a strong independent overachiever who could do nothing but watch her comforting daily routine fall apart before her eyes.

On the positive side, therapy became a surprising ally, revealing genuine friendships and a supportive partner. However, the road ahead brings challenges, from the realization that having children will be tougher to grappling with the irreversible changes in my body.

Yet, here I stand, determined to move forward. This transformed body is now a part of me, and I am in the process of rediscovering myself each day when I gaze into the mirror. No one warned me that this would be the essence of the journey, but here I am, navigating uncharted terrain with resilience and hope.

As I share my story, I hope it serves as a testament to the strength that emerges from vulnerability and the beauty found in embracing the unexpected twists that life may bring.

-Tracy Brock,

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