I thought this day would never come.
In the cancer world, the number 5 is magical, almost mystical.
You hear a lot of hype about hitting that 5 year mark. But in the research that I have done, 5 years is really not much different than 10 years, 13 years, etc. However, all of the initial survival rates are based on someone surviving for 5 years or more, and the likelihood of your cancer recurring is greater within the 1-5 year range. So, even though 5 years is not a big deal, it still is a big deal.
For me, any number is a BIG DEAL.
I still remember with absolute clarity the moment I sat across from my oncologist and heard him say
"Stage III Breast Cancer"
"the survival rate is around 70%."
Mark and I sat in stunned silence, trying to hold back the tears.
I was looking for a number much higher than 70%.
And while that conversation stunted my hope for a little while, it did not decrease my determination to kick cancer's butt.
And that's exactly what I did.
Although cancer has and continues to kick right back.
Even though I am still considered "cancer free", the lingering mental anguish still bothers me from time to time. I have talked a lot about my struggles with PTSD and anxiety issues and will continue to do so. It is so important for us to realize that our health is so much more than just physical. Our mental and spiritual health play important roles as well and we need to make sure that we are giving attention to all three aspects of our health.
So how are the 3 aspects of my health doing 5 years after diagnosis?
--I *try* to do some exercise every day, but let's face it, most days my exercise consists of meeting my 10,000 steps goal. Sometimes those steps include a little bit of jogging, but it's mostly just walking as I try to get everyone where they need to be when they need to be there. If I am lucky I remember to do some ab workouts and pushups AND I get to play volleyball once a week so that makes me happy. I do feel much stronger and although I don't really remember how strong I felt before cancer, I feel like I am every bit as strong-- and quite possibly stronger, in more ways than one.
--I still have lingering issues from my mastectomy including the dreaded "boob itch." (If you want to learn more about this, you'll have to read my book. :) I also have some issues that I have to deal with from my hysterectomy, including (getting personal here) low sex drive, vaginal dryness, and "phantom" PMS symptoms.
--Not to mention I still have my lovely melasma mustache, but whatever, I'm over it now. ;)
--I started taking an anti anxiety med called Lexapro. I have played with the dosage a bit because when I was taking it every day, I felt like I was almost too uncaring. I tried taking it every other day and that was okay, but now I have settled on taking 1/2 a pill every day. That seems to be the perfect balance for me. But I knew the real test would be approaching this day and time of year. In the past few years, I have always had my "cancer freak-outs" around this time of year. This year? Nothing. Maybe it's because I am that much further removed from that time of my life or maybe it's the medication. Maybe it's a combination of both. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I like what I am feeling.
--I am also on a good path of learning how to be more in control of my emotions. I attended BYU Education Week this week and nearly all of the classes that I took focused on how to take care of your mental health. I am looking forward to putting into practice some of the skills that I learned. I will keep you posted on how it goes.
--Before cancer, I was a very spiritual person. I had a testimony of Christ and his atonement. I knew that I was a daughter of God and that by trusting in Him I could do anything. After cancer, I KNOW with absolute surety that CHRIST IS MY SAVIOR AND REDEEMER. He atoned for MY sins, for MY sadness, for MY sorrow, for MY afflictions. He did this because he loves me.
--I had to learn the hard way that my spiritual health is the most important aspect of my overall health. If I don't nourish it and feed it, then it upsets the balance of my whole life.
--I had to learn the hard way that there are good things, better things, and best things that I can choose to focus on in my life. When I put the best things first, everything else falls into place, without fail. Some days I try to sneak in too many things that, although they are good, are not the best, and I always crash and burn.
**I always, always, always have time for everything I feel I need to do when I put the best things first.**
"you have cancer."
Today, I dropped this sweet girl off for her first day of Junior High School.
Life can change in an instant. Sometimes those changes are happy and good. Sometimes those changes are sad and difficult to understand.
But, guess what?
YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.
When your world crashes down and the rug is pulled from beneath you, remember those words.
Take some deep breaths, cry a little or a lot, then get down on your knees and pray for strength.
It will come.
You will endure.
And all will be well in the end (and I am talking about eternity here.)
Wherever you life's circumstances find you this day, I hope that you can find joy, love, and happiness.
Because today is a great day to be alive.