We all have some idea of what it might be like to have chemotherapy and surgery, but what happens next? With so many “selfies” being posted to raise funds for cancer care and awareness, today’s letter is from a cancer survivor.
The letter is written by Mary, an Irish lady who I am very proud to say is my cousin. She is an inspiration, and I just love her fighting spirit.
Comment: Dear Body
My second routine mammogram with Breastcheck found the cancer. It grew silently and aggressively within us. I didn’t know. I didn’t feel anything. No lump, bump or other physical change. You must have been unaware too as you did not make its presence felt in any way. It continued to grow silently inwards and kept on spreading. Ultrasound, biopsies and MRI scans confirmed its presence and rapid growth. It refused to die following 4 months of severe fortnightly chemotherapy. It just stopped growing and spreading. I lost my hair and my energy. Eating was a struggle. I had pain all over. You and I battled on but cancer stayed fighting us every step of the way.
A mastectomy and removal of all 33 of my lymph nodes followed within 2 weeks of finishing chemotherapy. My hair began to come back. Hormone therapy drugs were then prescribed. The results came back. Cancer had made it to Grade 3 and Stage 3. Radiotherapy followed daily for 8 weeks. You and I battled on.
It was now 10 months since we were first introduced to cancer. Was it gone? The best answer I got was “probably”. The hormone therapy continued. I did not get to feel better. You may or may not be host to a minuscule cancer cell. You hated the preventative drugs and let me know through the severe side effects I was experiencing.
I continued to get worse. The therapy was changed. You and I struggled on. Eight months after finishing radiotherapy and suddenly I couldn’t lift my left arm (not my surgery side) or move my left leg. The left side of my face was numb. Had you had enough? Were you tired of the constant daily, hourly, minute by minute struggling? Twice in 3 days you refused to work on the left side. Extensive tests over 4 days in hospital resulted in confirmation that neither you nor I were candidates for stroke so cause was either “unknown”, “reaction to severe chemotherapy” or “a rogue cancer cell”. You accepted the preventative drugs for this ok and for that I am thankful.
However you continued to let me know in no uncertain ways that you hated the cancer preventative drugs. So they were changed for the third time. You also hated these. Lots of consultation followed. I decided to listen to you, my body. Every test confirmed that you were healthy in every other way. You deserved the break as much as I needed it from the almost constant pain, fatigue, lack of sleep, nausea and overheating.
Yes I know that we have taken a huge risk statistically. But cancer is not 100% guaranteed. We have at least 25% chance of never dealing with it again. That is more than good enough for me. You are delighted not to have to absorb the cancer preventative drugs. Your response has been fabulous in the 5 months since. We no longer ache. Nausea is a thing of the past. You maintain a fairly even all over temperature. Yes you get times most days where fatigue wins out for a while but you keep on going. Thank you body for sticking with me and fighting a great fight. We will forever be living with cancer but we are and will continue to live! We have made the right decision for us.
*** Have you a letter to someone you would love to write? A first love? A letter to a younger you? Someone you wish to thank? Maybe a confession? Or a letter to someone who has made your life difficult?
I am still taking contributions to this series of letters. Check out the guidelines for submission or just contact me with any queries. You can read previous contributions using the “series of letters” link.