I no longer had my breast, the physical reminder of the cancer. But visually, I had a whole new battle to overcome. Was I the same person without my breast? Would I be the same woman? Would the world accept me as I am? These were all the questions that plagued me each day I looked in the mirror. I had an amazing caregiver in my husband, who made sure I didn’t have to face the images in the mirror each day. You grow accustomed to the physical limitations. No lifting, no raising your arms, no laying on your side, no showering for days because of the drains. But the image of not having your breast is not one that is easily forgotten. But this is all part of the painful journey of becoming a SURVIVOR.
The Survivor Buddies made sure I wasn’t alone and was making the right decisions for myself. They were my emotional affirmation that the path I was on was true. My advocates made sure the physical journey was not my focus. My primary focus was to heal and stay positive.
From here the battle became fierce. I had managed to get through chemo and the mastectomy. The reconstruction was the last phase of care. Physically this was the most painful and mentally this was the most demoralizing. One might assume that because I have two newly reconstructed breasts, the road to recovery and mental healing would be smooth. This was not the case. The depression, anger and frustration became stifling. I would laugh to mask the pain I was in mentally. But when alone, I cried and grieved for the loss of my image.
Visibly there was more scarring, and I relied more and more on my husband to care for my wounds. I had never been that dependent on someone for my daily care. I questioned myself daily, whether this was the right decision. I was okay with not having my breast, the reminder of my cancer. Due to a transflap procedure, I now had scars on my back, side and breasts. I wasn’t prepared, and no one could have prepared me for what this would look like.
Thanks to the constant reassurance from my Survivor Buddies and the compassion from my plastic surgeon, Dr. Ivan Turpin, each day I felt I won a battle against the cancer. This is when the reality of being a SURVIVOR became real. The scars that once reminded me of my loss, now remind me of my survival.
Each day I struggle with self image, but each day I grow stronger knowing I have for the past 980 days conquered the beast that is cancer. I’m no longer afraid to say I AM A SURVIVOR. I am now Sansei, wife, mother, sister, aunt and most importantly SURVIVOR. This SURVIVOR is here today because of the love, compassion and support of my doctors, nurses, Survivor Buddies, husband, family and friends. I get to wake up each morning feeling blessed and loved.
If you learn anything from me today, know that it is okay to have cancer, fight ferociously, never give up, surround yourself with love, and focus on the positive. You too can be a SURVIVOR.
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