This month marks 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis. June 02nd – mammogram, ultrasound, needle-aspiration biopsy, core biopsy; June 10th – MRI; June 16th – first visit with my Oncologist; June 17th – second needle-aspiration biopsy, second core biopsy; June 18th – Rapid Genetic Testing for BRCA-1 and BRCA-2; June 23rd – Pre-Op Clinic and follow-up appointment with my Oncologist; June 24th – mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy….
It was 22 mind-whirling days of diagnosis, tests, and surgery. It happened so fast. Although I felt incredibly lucky to be seen and treated so quickly by one of the top breast surgeons in Toronto, it left me utterly dazed. I couldn’t fully comprehend all that had happened/was happening. It was surreal. I felt numb. Then, the realization of all that occurred slowly began to wash over me. As time stretched onward, the reality became all too real and all too frightening. The fear. The fear turned my blood to ice. I struggled with vast emotions that ripped through me at exponential speeds. It left me reeling in the the wake of my drastically-altered life. It was a life I couldn’t recognize and desperately wanted to piece back together.
It was in those early days that I felt as though I were riding a roller coaster. One moment I was on a high, the next plummeting down to dark and fearful depths, only to soar back up and climb again. I was riding the rails, but I was out of control. I was struggling. I was frantic. I was scared. I did not know how to cope. I did not know how to move forward.
This is where the journey truly begins. In those moments when you feel utterly terrified, alone, and desperate. It is at this time when one decides whether they wish to continue riding those unrelenting rails or to stop. I chose to stop. I sought help. Thus my journey toward healing began.
It has not been a simple journey. There have been hurdles to overcome, setbacks to work through, and deep-rooted fears to tame. Thus are the realities of healing. Therefore my journey has not been travelled lightly. Thankfully I have not traversed it alone. I have had an incredible amount of support. Support from family, friends, management and co-workers, neighbours, strangers, blogging community, and of course my medical team (doctors, nurses, radiologists, social worker, physiotherapist, and massage therapists). I have never been alone. For every hurdle I have encountered, for every upward climb and downward plummet I have had someone there to hold on to, to trust, and to carry me through.
As I reach my cancerversary and reflect upon these past 5 years, I realize how intensely my journey began. The reality of how quickly everything evolved and how swiftly my life unravelled still hits me hard, even 5 years later. It is staggering. I haven’t had time to process how I am feeling as I approach and then surpass this milestone. Five years!
I want to celebrate the milestone, but yet there is a hesitancy that exists within. That hesitancy is fear. That fear travels with me every moment of every day. It never leaves. And, that’s okay. Learning to live with the fear and give it space, but not control, is a large part of my journey. So, as I reflect on these past 5 years I do so with gratitude, and also with pride. I had the courage to fight. I had the strength to endure. I had the willingness to do all that I could to win my life back. It does not look the same. I do not look the same. But that is okay. I am content with that.
If I have learned anything whilst on this journey, it is to live a life of peace. Live a life that is truthful to yourself, because that is all that is within your control. Accept that there will always be fear. With fear comes joy.
Choose Joy. Published by Crystal Joy Hall
Featured Image: Andre Furtado.