Friday, October 24, 2008

When Are You "Done"?

When I was first diagnosed in May, I attended a Young Women's Breast Cancer Group (YWBCG) get-together, for yoga and dinner. This is a support group for women who were diagnosed under the age of 45. I expected to walk into a room full of bald heads. In fact, there was only one bald head there (I hadn't lost my hair yet) and the rest of the women had been out of treatment anywhere from 2-10 years. I couldn't understand why these women would still be attending events. They were all very nice, wonderful women, but I kept thinking, "Why do you still want to sit around and talk about cancer? Don't you just want to close the door when you're done with this chapter? Why are they still coming to this stuff?"

Now I know the answer. Because YOU ARE NEVER DONE. I'm realizing that this isn't just something to get through and forget about. Cancer is now part of my life. Not a chapter, but my daily life from now on. Why? Because it changes everything. Every day I now have to decide what to eat, thinking about what helps to lower my risk of a recurrence. I have to change my routine so I work out more, because research shows that walking briskly 5x/week for 30 minutes lowers my risk of a recurrence by 40%. Not just for a while, but for the rest of my life. I have to keep abreast of breast cancer research, because one of these days (and I believe it will be sooner rather than later), we're going to have, as a society, an Aha Moment when someone figures out what's been causing this. As every new gene mutation is discovered, I'll have to get tested. Because of the surgery I had, I'm at some risk for lymphedema for the next 10 years, so have to always wear gloves when I wash dishes and tell the woman giving me a manicure to be sure not to cut my cuticles because I can't risk the infection in my left arm. For the next 5-10 years I'll be on Tamoxifen, a drug that protects my cells from my naturally-produced estrogen, since the estrogen could fuel a recurrence. I'll be dealing with the side effects of the Tamoxifen for possibly the next 10 years. And the list goes on and on...

So now I know why the women who have finished treatment still attend the YWBCG meetings. Because breast cancer is still part of their daily lives and they are still fitting it into their busy lives, every day.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Where are you? I miss knowing what's going on, and that all is well, or at least weller.

    Geesh, you'd think it was a busy time of year or something?!

    Hugs to all of you.