As a young girl I couldn’t wait, as I would like to think many little girls go through, with the anticipation of growing into my body like a young woman does. To finally fill up my training bras and fill out my t-shirts.
I remember the great sense of loss that overwhelmed my every waking moments after I slowly felt along my chest at all the thick bandages that now covered my skin and had taken place of where my breasts once rested. The tears were almost impossible to slow down after they started. I had go grab a wash cloth and cover my entire face to hide the horrible faces we all make when we are in the middle of any emotional crisis.
I was 34 years old. A wife to my childhood sweetheart and the mother of our two children. I was pretty active considering I worked a full time job, had a husband, and raising two young children. I know I was rarely wide awake past the 10 o’clock news anymore. I felt like I worked out daily for hours at the gym. I was always a social drinker and I had picked up the nasty habit of almost a pack a day of those cigerettes. Now, I am sitting in this hospital room unable to hardly move my arms at all because I had just had to have a major surgery to try to remove a large amount of cancer from my body. Cancer, I couldn’t believe they are still saying is definitely cancer.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis I tried to dive head first into my treatment. I was ready to fight this battle and I set my mind to accomplishing the grand prize-living a long, happy life with my family.
I endured very long, exhausting and painful chemotherapy treatments that forced me to view myself as the typical looking cancer patient. I lost all my hair, which was most traumatic to me holding clumps of hair in my hands as compared to the exhilarating freedom that came to me only when I decided to get busy shaving my head myself. I no longer had eyelashes and eyebrows but I no longer had to shave my legs every night either. I lost all my finger nails and toe nails due to the chemotherapy treatments and it literally burned my skin from the inside out. It wasn’t ever really easy but I tried to balance out some kind of positive with every negative I let creep into my thoughts. As long as I was still here I was ok with what I was going through.
I had no expertise on this topic. I never had many reasons to read up on breast cancer besides hearing the latest news flash across the television. I wasn’t even old enough at the time of my diagnosis for my health insurance to agree to pay for a regular mammogram for preventative measures. However, my mother had been diagnosed at the age of forty one with stage 2 breast cancer and as far as all the females in my family knew there were no other previously recorded family members diagnosed before my mothers diagnosis. I was twenty one when she was diagnosed. Never really terrified by the termonology until it was hitting me smack where it hurt, in my medical chart as my own personal diagnosis.
After finishing right around twelve to fourteen chemotherapy treatments I was then tattooed on my naked chest to guide the radiation beams into the desired locations the radiologist thought should be beneficial to my life. I graduated after approximately thirty of those treatments and slowly tried to adjust to life after being diagnosed, operated on, and treated for Stage 3C invasive ductal & lobular carcinoma. Which also happened to turn out being hormone positive and affected 16 of 20 lymph nodes that were removed during my extensive surgery, which also happened to remove the breasts I had waited on for so very long. The very same breasts that were attempting to kill me.
I couldn’t allow this to become factual. I wouldn’t allow this to become factual. Watch me fight..Fight like A Girl.
Fighting is exactly what I decided I was going to do and I also decided I would win.
I waited almost three years before I decided I was way past ready to begin the entire reconstruction progress. I gave my body time to heal as much as possible not only from the previous surgery but also time to heal after all the treatment my poor body had been through. It needed the rest and though I didn’t know it at the time I needed the entire time to help heal mentally from the whole ordeal.
At the time I had been married for eighteen years of my adult life. My marriage was suffering and my self-esteem was in even worse dire straits. After some unrational thoughts and conversations my husband and I seperated and from there I literally sank into what has to be the worst days and nights of all of our lives. Becoming a continuous nightmare for my children, my husband, and myself.
This nightmare lasted for a little over a year. After my husband moved out of our house, I asked my little brother to move in with us. I knew I would never need any other male to live inside our home besides my brother. His company and companionship was a much needed distraction from all the ugly, negative memories my husband and I had started making for one another. I decided to start the process of rebuilding my body at the same time I had to start rebuilding my entire life. It was an exciting time for me. It was definitely what I wanted to focus on besides the end of my marriage. I dove into researching all the possibilities I had to sort through so I could get to moving with rebuilding my body, my self esteem, and my life.
It was the morning of my daughters eighteenth birthday. A hot July morning where the tempatures were already reaching a balmy 80 degrees before 10 am. I hadn’t climbed out of bed yet when the house phone started ringing, over and over again just continuously ringing almost like the telephone was in a panic state. I reached the handle and sleepily mumbled, “Hello.” Like the blast from shotgun, words flying from my fathers mouth were blasting inside my ears like the hot, piercing fragments from shotgun.
“He is gone, Renee’.”
“What???” I mumbled. “Who??”
“You know what I am talking about, Joey is no longer here with us, your little brother passed away
last night,” cried my father.
“Oh my God, please do not say that.” I begged.
The phone fell from my grasp. I could no longer stand on my feet. I crumbled to the floor sobbing hysterically trying to make sense of what I had just been told by my dad. I knew he would not speak such words if they weren’t the absolute truth but I had to make sure he wasn’t somehow mistaken. I don’t remember driving the short two mile drive to my parents house where my little brother had decided to stay guaranteeing his daughter some special quality time with her daddy. All I remember is begging God to please let this all be some kind of messed up sick story.
It wasn’t a messed up, sickening story. It was another one of my most fearful nightmares I had thought about after I had accepted the previous sickening nightmare of having been diagnosed with breast cancer. I never thought I was going to smile again. I never wanted to smile again. I no longer could care about what was happening in the world, in my own life or in my children’s lives. I was so very lost, so very sad, and so very alone. This was the way of life for me consistently for another year. Ups and downs constantly hitting my days. Mostly downs consuming my waking hours. My husband and I decided to stop our divorce and work on trying to make our marriage work for many more years for our children and for ourselves. I needed him to carry me because I felt so defeated I could barely stand on my own. After many attempts and many arguments we finally reached the point where we could finally fall into each other’s arms again and really feel secure from the big, bad, mean ol’ world. I endured two reconstructive surgeries that were twenty hours long apiece. Along with a few smaller surgeries that finally rebuilt my body back to a womanly figure again. A really perky, tight, and volumptious womanly figure again. I was really happy with the way my clothes fit me again, loving the way my cleavage was so even and high upon my chest. Actually, I believe after a few years had passed since my original diagnosis and then the breakup of my marriage following the debilitating loss of my best friend and baby brother I had let myself begin to smile again. Not really too often but any small amount of time I let my lips curve upward towards heaven I believe that was helping to heal my heart a little bit at a time. This all took place between 2010 through 2013.
My reconstruction has basically been completed and my soul is healing slower than a snails marathon but it is healing regardless of how slow. Any progress that heals a soul has to be considered some good progress.
At age 39 yrs old, a little under a year ago now, I was making a new flower bed out in our back yard. Digging up weeds and planting numerous different perennials when I had to cough up some stuff I felt was caught in my chest. I had been feeling like I had cinder blocks crushing my rib cage so I thought maybe after I finish up my third round of antibiotics maybe this pneumonia will finally clear up and I’ll be able to get back to feeling like my old, happy go lucky self again. I prayed to God to please keep me safe in his arms and heal my body that had never dealt with pneumonia before. I just wanted it to go away so I could breathe again with ease. I opened my eyes and tried to make some sense of what I was looking at and the words I was hearing. I tried to speak, so I could ask my family standing next to my bed just what in the world was I doing laying in this hospital room again. Since I was on a breathing machine that had been keeping me alive since I was brought into the hospital almost a month before now when I finally decided I should open my eyes.
I couldn’t really say any words that anyone understood with all the tubes running in and out of various parts of my body. However, my hearing has not been effected by all the fluid that had filled my chest cavity causing both lungs to collapse cutting off the oxygen flow we all need to survive. I had no ideal what had happened to me. So far I have heard my father ask me if I was aware of how long I had been there in the hospital. Followed by the answer that really confused my thoughts.
I have been in this hospital, on this breathing machine, laying in ICU, the intensive care unit for almost an entire month. I thought that was almost impossible to believe but then I was filled in on why I had been back in the hospital on life support for the last month.
It seems like I am no longer in remission. Unfortunately, I have a tumor in my left lung which caused all the confusion with my pneumonia diagnosis. Also it seems that my lung isn’t the only place that cancer has returned in my body, I have been told my diagnosis is called widespread metastestic breast cancer and that’s only because it originally began there over five years ago. The doctors and specialists no longer stage a reoccurance of cancer and I also have been told that other patients with this very same diagnosis have been going strong as long as ten years after their diagnosis. Maybe that is their way of giving me some type of prognosis. This upcoming July 2014 will be one year since I landed on life support. This past year has been full of more chemotherapy treatments, more radiation treatments, more tears, depressing thoughts, and I have spent many hours alone questioning myself about every unanswerable question I have ever thought of. I have cried a whole lot, I have laughed a whole lot, and most of all I am loving my children, my husband, my other family members, and friends completely without holding back at all.
I cannot say I am desperately distraught and unable to function now because of my most recent diagnosis, I do not spend my days crying, alone or depressed about this illness. Do I hate it? “Hell yes, I do not hate another thing more.” I also truly feel that every single hardship and traumatic event that has taken place previously in my life has prepared me to face this current diagnosis.
Everyday we all are given the choice to either be miserable with the life we have been blessed to share with our loved ones or we can choose to be happy with our life we are blessed to share with the ones we love. I am choosing to be happy. I count my blessings every single day. The very smallest of blessings are the very ones I feel so fortunate to recognize and possess.
This diagnosis has given me the strength to endure even more treatments and the clarity along with the peace of mind to really start living my life. I no longer live with any regrets, love with any regrets, and I no longer spend any of my days that I am so fortunate and blessed to see crying over such small minuscule nonsense or drama.
I live every minute to the fullest of my capabilities. I enjoy every second I spend with all of my family. I cherish every memory I made with every single soul I love and enjoy living with everyday. I cannot say I am sorry or saddened completely by this current battle I have no choice but to fight. I will never give up or give in. I will never doubt my faith in God or myself. I know and believe that God has the perfect plan for me and all his children. There is a reason for every season and purpose under the heavens.
I have to admit to anyone and everyone reading my Fight like A Girl story that without hearing my latest diagnosis I may have never got the courage to face this battle or discovered I still have such a passion for living life. That helps me truly spend each and everyday doing nothing more and nothing less than simply loving my crazy and sometimes disturbingly hard life and completely and truthfully spending each day just really knowing how great it feels and how easy it is to just be breathing and how blessed I am to simply be living!
God Bless every person that must battle in everyway.
Never again shall we doubt or question
The miracle given to us all in the start of everyday.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.