Anger & Acceptance

Anger & Acceptance

This past weekend, almost two years after diagnosis (July 6th, 2016), I was angry. I am angry.

For the first time since my diagnosis, I’m angry at my cancer. I’m angry because I have finally allowed myself to feel that anger. 

Let’s rewind here for a moment:

I spent months after my dense chemo staying as busy as I possibly could. This entailed working full-time as a preschool teacher and working at a restaurant on the weekends. I told myself it was because I enjoyed it. The reality was that I didn’t really want to face the emotions that can follow after chemo…and BOY DID THEY FOLLOW. My dear old friends, depression and anxiety came back with a vengeance. As someone that has suffered with generalized anxiety disorder most of my life, with having dealt with depression in my past, I went back to what I knew best: unhealthy coping skills such as avoidance. I stayed as busy as possible so I that I didn’t have time to think. Plus, by the time I was done with work I was so exhausted that I would go straight to bed.

A few months later I realized the stress was incredibly unhealthy and the exact opposite of what I truly needed. I quit my weekend job and transitioned careers entirely outside of childcare. I miss the kids soooo much, but it didn’t allow for any “me” time.

Fast forward to today:

I’m about three months into my new career, four days from my two year “cancerversary” and the feelings are finally creeping in.

I didn’t allow myself to feel. I didn’t allow myself to time to accept the absolute SH*T that I had to go through. I didn’t allow myself to feel angry for my situation. You know… the situation of having breast cancer in my 20’s.  I viewed it as selfish.  I thought I should only feel gratitude. That’s not the reality of life after cancer.  I am angry. I am wrathful. I am worthy of feeling this way.

I went through breast cancer as a 25/26 year old. I am now 27 and considered “cancer-free” but cancer is still a very big part of my life. Amongst that, I have had to accept my new reality. I’m 27 years old and have the body of a female going through menopause. I don’t menstruate, my hormones are all out of whack, my bones ACHE, I may never be able to have child (that’s a novel in itself) and my metabolism is kaput and I have the added weight to show it.

I had the HEALTHIEST relationship that I’ve ever had with food and body image, ever in my life, the two years leading up to diagnosis. It brought me to tears at one point because I finally felt in control with my disordered eating and thoughts. I found myself thinking about this the past few weeks, quite a lot. It brought angry, resentful, tears to me this time instead. Cancer is shitty. Cancer sucks. Cancer really freaking sucks.

I’m learning to accept my reality and new metabolism. I’m now seeing the dietitian that has known me since I was 16 and the one I met through the cancer center. I’m currently following a meal plan that is typically used for menopausal woman for weight management… But. BUT. I’m NOT allowing my new reality to cause any more negativity with my body. My body has been through the ringer – and it’s time to be accepting and give gratitude to the body that fought like hell for me to be alive today.

I’m angry. I’m really really angry. My life has been drastically changed because of cancer. 

But I plan on using this anger to strive for continued and better health along the way. I refuse to accept the path of self-loathe that it’s trying to take me on.

Here’s to a healthier, determined, me. I am so thankful to be able to feel these feelings, to be alive to do so, and to use this anger as fuel.

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These Breasts

These Breasts

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Those breasts? The breasts that replaced the cancer along with the tissue from the other breast as a precaution because of the multiple cysts that were benign but that could’ve changed with time. Those bandages? The bandages currently being worn to make sure my incisions heal correctly… & yes, the scars are that long. The lumps on the left breast? It’s from the drain within my breast removing the fluids. I had four after surgery. I had minor complications with the left breast healing so it’s on a little longer than the rest. The extra fat you see near my armpits? I went smaller in breast size so I’m left with excess fat from the breasts that will require yet another procedure to remove it once I’m healed. It’s also a reminder of the breasts that gave me years of insecurity, and clearly cancer. Those implants? The implants take away the ability to ever have the opportunity to breast feed children in the future. That key hanging from my neck? One of the most beautiful gifts that I have ever received. It’s from the Giving Key’s  with the word “HOPE” in the middle. I’m supposed to “embrace the word” and “pay it forward by passing on the key to a person that needs the message more” than myself. Reconstruction surgery isn’t glamorous, and it’s far from easy. However, with this simple reminder perfectly placed near the scars and damage as I’m still healing, is the best reminder to never lose hope, and strive for a better tomorrow & the healthiest possible life.

 (The key was gifted from one of my cancer sisters, Grace) 

Initially posted this on Instagram: jessheleno

 

Guess who’s back… back again

Guess who’s back… back again

Hello! It’s been almost a month since my last blog, not surprised. Who was the genius that thought being a full-time student, chemotherapy patient, and part-time worker, OH and now 6th grade feeder team basketball coach was a good idea? That’s right, yours truly! Let me tell you, I am exhausted. Many days last week, I was asleep for more hours than I was awake. At the end of the (very long) day, I know that all of this is worth it.

Since I am extremely busy, and tired… and mushy, I haven’t had the inspiration to write in the past few weeks. I also knew that anything I would write during those weeks would be as exciting as watching paint dry. Today is my most “normal” feeling day since last Monday’s chemotherapy so I thought I’d take advantage of this day. What’s new on my end?  I’ve been having extreme stomach/indigestion issues from chemotherapy so they decided to cut back the Taxotere (of TCHP) by a “pinch” in hopes that it would help solve some of the issues. I knew it sounded too good to be true; the only thing that changed from the new regimen was a delayed response. So my REALLY tough days landed on school days. When a classmate said “you look like you’re struggling today,” she was SPOT ON. Struggle bus city. The other change since last blog is the intensity of chemopause. Chemopause is like menopause, but for chemotherapy patients… hot flashes and all. And yes, they’re just as fun as they sound. Being a naked mole rat also makes it very confusing and difficult to stay at a normal body temperature.

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This is the chemopause DREAM. (Picture taken from Young Survival Coalition)

 

The good news from these crazy couple of months? The tumor has shrunken in size SIGNIFICANTLY. It cannot be felt by examination :] Two more rounds to go!

As promised, here are the question’s I received for the AMA:

How did you know you should go to the doctor?

  • Something in my gut (or my severe anxiety ;]) wasn’t feeling comfortable with the lump that I noticed in my breast. I did not believe my OB/GYN when she brushed the lump off like it was nothing. I wanted to shut up my anxiety. As the tests continued, I began to have a weird feeling that it was cancer.

Do you go in weekly for chemo? How many weeks do you have to do it for? When did you start?

  • I go in every three weeks. I’m convinced that it’s every three weeks because it takes that long to start feeling like “normal” again. For me personally, every round becomes more exhausting than the previous one too.  I have six rounds of chemotherapy total, and started August 1st. So come the middle of November, I will be DONE with chemotherapy :] 

What does stage 2 grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma really mean?

  • This means that I’m a lucky lady :] But really. Though the tumor is larger, 3.1 x 2.2 x 2.7 cm to be exact, it is contained within the breast. “Grade 3 cells look very different from normal cells. They grow quickly in disorganized, irregular patterns, with many dividing to make new cancer cells.” < Which means they are aggressive. I took that directly from breastcancer.org – To find out more about IDC and different breast cancers, click here.

For those of us that are limited in energy or whatever, we want to send to you the best encouragement and support. What helps you most? How can we provide it?

  • I’m a simple lady, every little comment, message, text means the world to me. I am a SUCKER for both giving and receiving cards. So I would have to say sweet words of encouragement, personal letters are my personal favorite ❤

What’s the best thing that has happened to you since your diagnosis?

  • OU GOOD QUESTION. I think one important thing for me, as someone who has always suffered with self-worth issues, is that I have come to realize how many people I have in my corner. I was blown away by everyone who came to join me for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. It brought tears to my eyes at one point. I had people join me from almost every stage of my life thus far, and that was really humbling to me ❤
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    I LOVE YOU ALL (not everyone pictured) – You all blew me away.

    What are some things that keep your mind sharp after chemotherapy?

  • GOOD QUESTION. I have no idea. I am Queen Mushy Brain. I love to read, but I need energy to read and I have been lacking that as of late. I’ve been thinking of adding podcasts back into my drives… so hopefully that? Short walks help a little too.

If any of you have ANY questions ever, never hesitate to reach out. Please ❤

This song came on in the car today and instantly brought a huge & creepy smile to my face. “Maybe you were made this way, maybe the pieces were intentionally different”

Noah Gundersen – The Difference