Fake boobs and a metal leg, really? What’s that all about? Well, that’s what I’m all about. How come, you ask? Cancer.
I’ve never really sat down and typed anything up directly dealing with my cancer experiences, but with it being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve actually wanted to write this blog for quite a while, but I keep stopping myself from doing it. I had no idea how emotionally attached I am to the fact that I’ve had cancer twice, and to be honest, it’s hard to really write about without having to revisit some hard times. I’ve been in a mood this whole past week leading up to today; ask my husband he’ll vouch. It’s like the vaulted part of my mind that holds in fear, anger, worry and sadness, all due to this disease and how it has changed my life, was pried open and I was thrown inside to sit and dwell and deal. But it’s good. One lie cancer survivors like to often believe is that we can totally move on from cancer without any lasting effect. Even if there’s no physical change from dealing with this disease, there is still an emotional and mental altering. This altering is not all bad, but it’s definitely there to stay.
So briefly I want to share my two experiences of having had cancer with you. Now there is no way to capture all of the horrible and wonderful moments this disease has brought me in a simple blog, so know as you read know that this is just the tip of the iceberg….
The first time I ever remember hearing the word cancer was when I was told I had it. I was eleven; I just started the sixth grade. My life was good. I was very active and had lots of friends. I could run so fast, and I prided myself on how strong I was. I don’t think I had any awareness to death or disease. Why would I? But all that changed. Within two weeks I was diagnosed with Osteogentic Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and started an almost year-long cycle of chemotherapy. My cancer had attached itself to my left femur bone just a few inches above my knee. I still look back at pictures from right before the diagnoses to try and see if I could tell it was there. Well I can’t.
After about four months of horrible chemo, where I was in and out of the hospital weekly, I had my surgery. They removed most of my femur bone, my knee, and part of my thigh muscle. They replaced the bone and knee joint with a metal rod and artificial knee. I had 52 staples, was on crutches for 18 months and still adorn a scar that’s over a foot-long on my leg. After my surgery, I finished up six more months of chemo, I almost died, God healed me miraculously from needing a blood transfusion, I gave my life to Christ, met some of the most amazing people who forever changed my world, became a part of the Camp Sunshine family, a camp for kid’s with cancer, and was sent on my merry way.
Through the next seven years I went to at least five funerals of friends who didn’t make it….including one I considered to be a best friend.
But then just as easily as I packed up for college, I packed away all these years of memories and left that life. I went on to college, met my hubby, got married, dealt with Aaron being gone to Iraq twice, adding up to about three years total, within the first five years of our marriage. We got pregnant, praise God because cancer kids don’t ever really know if that will be able to happen until it does or doesn’t, we started our life in ministry, transitioned to another church after three years, got pregnant again and then happily ever after. The End!
I wish! Reality: At 32 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
It’s not yet been a year since this most recent diagnosis, but man it sure feels like ten! We found a lump in my milk duct; it was very small yet cancerous. After lots of doctor visits, which I abhor and possibly turn into an 11 year old all over again as soon as we walk in to the doctors’ office, we decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery to rid me of this go at cancer. Now that decision wasn’t nearly as easy to make as it was to just type out. I had the option of them going in and only removing the 1cm size lump and doing six weeks of radiation, or I could take it all out.
Fake boobs. That’s something I never thought I’d have. God blessed me up top so I never dealt with the desire to add, I used to think how nice it would be to take some away, well watch what you wish for! I knew from the get go that a double mastectomy was what I needed to choose. I have a history of cancer, and am 88% more likely to get cancer again than the average person, so were boobs really worth it?
There was recently a lot of praise for Angelina Jolie on her decision to get a double mastectomy by choice to prevent the disease that took her mother. Honestly, my opinion changed about her some when I read that, but in reality, women everywhere have to make that choice every day.
I am so thankful for a loving husband that supports me in all I do. I know this choice would not only affect me, but would also affect my husband as well, so let me brag on him for just a bit. Aaron is so selfless; his love for me is so pure and true. Not once have I felt less of a woman since having this surgery, and he constantly makes me feel desired and attractive. Thank you Aaron; I love you!
Since deciding to have my breasts taken completely out, I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation. I did second guess my decision, but then my doctor called and they said that after doing a biopsy on all of my breast tissue they found an additional cancer. It was a sarcoma and had remained completely undetected!
You know, cancer is a lot of things, and there’s a lot that it’s not.
Cancer is serious Cancer isn’t always a death sentence
Cancer is hard Cancer isn’t a form a weakness
Cancer is scary Cancer isn’t in control
Cancer is cancer Cancer isn’t me
Cancer doesn’t define me. Fake boobs don’t define me. The fact that I walk with a slight limp and can’t run doesn’t define me.
Cancer is a part of who I am and who I’ve become. It’s attached to my salvation story. It’s the reason for hundreds of friendships and dozens of life-changing opportunities. Cancer provided me with a different perspective; gratefulness for life, but it doesn’t define me.
I know that as some of you read this you can’t sit there and connect to the positives of cancer; I know so many of you have lost a loved-one due to cancer. I pray that my family doesn’t have to feel what you’re feeling. I don’t want my husband to be wifeless, I don’t want my children to be motherless, I don’t want my parents to be daughterless and my sister to be sisterless. I want to always survive and live until I’m old and gray. But my reality is that that might not happen. Cancer could be my taker, and it could happen next year, or in twenty years. Because of this, I choose to live my life to the fullest. Much like the Tim McGraw song, “Live like You are Dying”, I know I am not promised tomorrow so I choose today to live! I live for love, and laughter, for memories, for fun. But most importantly, I live for Christ. He is my beginning and my end. Cancer is not my definer, Christ is.
Do I freak out every now and then or when I have a new pain in my body, thinking it might be cancer? Yes! Do I let it control me? No! For I do not live in “a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Fake boobs, a metal leg…a cancer survivor who is saved by the blood of Christ……that’s me!