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Life After Breast Cancer

Although I am finished with treatment and now a 2 ½ year survivor, cancer seems to keep finding a way to remind me what I went through, what ‘could’ happen and how unknown the future actually is.

I may not have hot flashes anymore or take multiple naps every day from treatment, but I am still effected by cancer. 

THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS

I have nerve damage from my bilateral mastectomy and about twice a month, I will have sharp pain on my side.  Generally when I am sleeping on that side, I am awoken to a stabbing pain that brings me to tears.  It usually subsides with a massage, however this is just the beginning.  My mind begins to race and the ‘what ifs’ consume my sleep time with worry and anxiety.

DREADED CHECK-UPS

Every six months, that dreaded check-up appointment comes.  Right when you are going about your life as a ‘normal’ person, guess what, time to get your blood drawn and get a physical to remind you that your life could change in the matter of a few seconds.  This has happened before, which makes it very real. Then there is that 24 hour wait for your blood results to see where your ‘tumor marker’ is…. This has brought me more anxiety and stress than anything I have ever experienced.  I am still trying to find the best way to deal with this when that time rolls around – the gift that keeps giving I guess.

BUYING A HOME

My experience with cancer has affected my ability to purchase a home.   This is beyond stressful and out of my hands, with the reminder of what I went through.  During my surgeries, appointments and treatments, I didn’t work too much in 2013.  Unfortunately, when you go to purchase a home, the bank counts 2 years of income and guess what, 2013 is one of them.  There are no programs or assistance to help you, you are just out of luck.  So while we watch our dream house sell to someone else, we are reminded of my cancer.  It seems to follow you in so many aspects of your life.

STARTING A FAMILY

I was 30 years old when I was diagnosed, with no children.  The scariest news was that I could be infertile after undergoing chemotherapy, so I froze my eggs between my mastectomy and chemo.  I am now at the point where we would like to move forward and utilize the eggs to begin a family, however this costs $14,000 out of pocket, up front.  Again, I can’t help but look back at cancer and think, ‘this isn’t fair’ and why is there not a program that can help someone in my position?  It wasn’t my fault I had cancer!  Now I feel like I am a burden; bringing this debt to our family right out the gate.  It is hard not to get depressed about this situation.

TAMOXIFEN

Due to my cancer tumors being estrogen and progesterone positive, I am on Tamoxifen (anti-estrogen) for 10 years.  This pill comes with side effects that truly remind you daily of your cancer.  The occasional hot-flash, joint pain and oh so much more.  I am only 2 years in with 8 years to go.  Just another reminder that cancer is now a part of my life.

Overall, I am extremely thankful to be alive and be healthy today.  Your health is so important and life is so fragile.  Live every day like you mean it and tell others that you love them, because you just never know.

Tracie Benjamin, Ford Warriors in Pink/Model of Courage