The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Things I Wish I Knew

by Stephanie DetwilerSurvivor, Triple Negative Breast CancerMarch 28, 2024View more posts from Stephanie Detwiler

I started doing self breast exams after reading a Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazine when I was in my late teens. The first of every month the magazine informed. November 1st, 2021, I found a lump in my left breast. One I thought I’d never find but one I was preparing to find. I had no idea what I was doing when I started these suggested tests or why it was important. Self checks are so important. Things I wish I knew.

January 2022, all the appointments were made. From gynecologist to specialist. Mammogram to Ultrasound. One to the other then leading to a biopsy. Fear. Day-to-day constant fear. I became intimately familiar with medical offices. Paper gowns and cold medical tables enhanced by the stinging smell of alcohol swabs and sterilization. HGTV on every channel in every waiting room, always on mute, offering a shred of normalcy in the most abnormal of places. It was sitting in these uncomfortable surroundings that I decided that things were out of my control. That there was nothing to be upset or worried about until there were results. All one could do was to pray, hope, and eventually cross fingers and toes that all would be favorably dismissed. Things I wish I knew.

Test results. THERE IS NO GREATER SUSPENSEFUL FEAR. Do I have Cancer? Am I free? If I do, how bad is it? Will I live? Will I die? The rolling consecutive questions that inundate your mind are overwhelming. I didn’t know or even understand how to process these feelings. But in the process of the days passing waiting for “My Chart” to update or for a doctor to call, I realized that like with the slew of testing, I needed to find peace in waiting. Comfort in the uncomfortable. I learned after this wait that knowledge truly IS power. Test results, although not what you want them to be, can be empowering. Results can empower us to seek out answers and prepare a plan for survival. Without them we are suffering in limbo. Prisoners to fear. Things I wish I knew.

Each stage of Cancer survivorship seems to follow the same pattern. Each stage seems to have the same fear of unknowns, the identification of those fears, and then the actions to put those fears to rest.

Do we know the total outcome? No. But I know now, that I am my absolute best advocate. Even with my new, cancer-altered body, I will get to know every inch of myself, inside and out. I will do this in hopes of thwarting off any ailment or attack on my body. I know now, that I can’t worry about something before I have something to be worried about. I shouldn’t fear scans and results because these are the arsenal I will need moving forward. I know now, that I am better and stronger for having faced and conquered this beast. These are the things I wish I knew.

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