I am not a breast cancer survivor persay. My mother-in-law had breast cancer. And I say had only because she is no longer with us. But her story is one of strength and love and I'm hoping by sharing it with you, that it will give all of you strength to believe that a breast cancer diagnosis is not the end of the world.
My mother-in-law was diagnosed in March 1999 with end stage breast cancer. It was in her bones. She couldn't walk without crutches her hips were in such bad shape. Her diagnosis was very somber. It hit us all like a tonne of bricks, as many of you can understand. The frustrating part was she had been for regular mammograms all her life, in fact one six months before her diagnosis and nothing was found. It was a very rapidly moving cancer that had taken over her system in no time at all.
But she had several things going for her: good insurance(Canada), a husband who did a tonne of research into alternative medicine, a strong family support system, and she lived in Ottawa where a lot of the leading edge research into Breast Cancer and cancer of all types is being done.
She underwent radiation on her hip in May/June and started chemo in June/July and she responded extremely well. In fact she responded well to all her treatments throughout the course of her disease. And that combined with her incredible will to live and a massive concoction of vitamines and hollistic remedies, she lived for six years with her disease, and she really lived. Throughout the course of her illness, you rarely knew she was ill to look at her. She went to almost every ball game to support the local AAA ball team. She enjoyed as much time as possible with her grandson, whom to this day, I believe is one of the biggest reasons she lived as long as she did. And she met her grand-daughter (who happens to look an awful lot like her) and even made her first birthday cake. She travelled home to the east coast almost every year and few things slowed her down. She would even climb down the cliffs to the sea bed floor in PEI. And for an able bodied person it was a steep climb! She refused to let the cancer run her life. And she lived to her fullest capacity and rarely complained about anything.
It was sometimes more difficult for us to live with her cancer than it seemed to be for her!!! And her doctor's stopped giving her life expectancy ideas because she kept surpassing them. And in the end it was a fluke accident that took her from us. She fell getting out of bed and broke her leg. Developped a blood clot that went to her lungs and slowly suffocated her. She was gone and we hardly had time to think about it. I always prayed that her end would be fast... And it was. After six years, the good Lord felt it was time she stopped suffering.
It was still very difficult to let her go. And I think many of us are still trying to let go of her in some ways.
I myself have taken on the challenge of fundraising every year in her honour. To date I have raised nearly $3,400 in total. The first year I did a silent auction at the ball park on what would have been her 55th birthday. This year I did the 60K (approx. 30 miles) Walk for Breast Cancer. It was a phenomenal weekend where I met other survivors and heard other women's struggles and heart aches. I am hoping to do it again next year. I am also growing out my hair to donate to the Canadian version of Locks for Love. This is my way of grieving. We miss her as much today as we did a year and a half ago when we said goodbye.
It's painful just writing about it. But I come here and read of your struggles and your accomplishments. I don't expect a response to this, but I wanted to put my story out there to give somebody facing a somber diagnosis the hope that with love, strength and good doctors/family support, you can overcome this disease and live despite it. Even today thinking of my mother-in-law gives me strength. She's the reason I finished 52km of the 60Km walk. No matter how much my feet hurt, I knew that she suffered more and if she could do it, I could finish the walk. And I did. Next year I hope to go the full 60!
So please have hope and faith and strength. You are all strong, beautiful women. And to live is to survive.
My prayers are out there for all those who suffer with this disease.
It would be easier to tell people I have cancer than it is to tell them I am severely depressed.....