Ten days after dx, I posted a list of ways in which I am lucky, and things I am grateful for, in spite of the awfulness of having cancer. I'm going to do that again, because there is even more to be grateful for now!
1. I have health insurance!
2. I decided "on a whim" (i.e. thanks to divine guidance?) to get a routine physical just because I hadn't had one in years, and that's when the nurse practitioner found the lump in my breast.
3. It's amazing that she FOUND the lump, considering it was so tiny!! I have so much respect and gratitude for her. And it was Breast Cancer Awareness month!
4. I'm lucky that the lump was relatively close to my skin, because if it had been deep in my breast, probably no one would have found it for years...since it would not have occurred to me to get a mammogram in my 30s.
5. I almost ignored the NP's recommendation to get the lump checked, because I was so young and healthy, and surely it couldn't be cancer. But I did get checked. Then I was tempted to ignore the radiologist's suggestion to get a biopsy, because he was "98% sure" it wasn't cancer. But I went for the biopsy. When I arrived in the office, the surgeon spent the first 20 minutes talking about how it was SO unlikely that I had cancer that it would be okay if I chose to not get the biopsy and instead monitor the lump on my own for 6 months to make sure it didn't change. But I went through with the biopsy, and thank God(dess) I did!!
6. I was SO SURE the results of my biopsy would be benign, but I asked my mom and best friend to come with me to the appointment anyway. I can't imagine how awful it would have been to have been diagnosed with cancer when I was ALL ALONE!
7. Just two days before I was diagnosed with BC, I had reconnected with a dear close friend, helping her celebrate her 100% healing from BC. What incredible timing. She is now the most helpful and understanding person on my cancer journey, providing me with both practical and emotional support to a depth that no one else can because A) we've been friends for 12 years/she KNOWS me! and B) she just went through all of this herself! I love you, Sue!
8. My tumor was Stage I and mucinous. This is just about the "best" kind of cancer to have, if you have to have cancer - mucinous cancer is rare, found in only about 2% of breast cancer cases, and it's slow-growing and non-aggressive. My prognosis is EXCELLENT.
9. I have been majorly underemployed for the past year, barely making enough money to pay my rent and bills, and it sucks being poor. But the flip side is that while I've been poor in money all this time, I've been downright wealthy in terms of TIME and FRIENDS and LOVE. Not having enough work has meant I've had lots of time to spend with my friends/family/people I love and to put lots of energy into nurturing those relationships, and that has made me really happy. And I did not know how very, very important my web of friends would become to me. Imagine if I were one of those workaholic types who worked 80 hours a week and thus had plenty of money but no time for friendships??? I would be pretty screwed right about now. I don't have a lot of money, but I have a lot of love, and THAT is what is getting me through this. That brings me to...
10. I have THE BEST FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND COMMUNITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. The constant, strong, deep love and support I have been receiving from you all, every step of the way for the past 3.5 months, leaves me speechless with gratitude.
10a. I so love and appreciate the hugs, kisses, voicemails, cards, gifts, emails, pictures, hands to hold, tea, FB messages, encouragement, sympathy, validation, prayers, crystals, energy, metta, laughter, mochas, herbs, cuddles, Alias marathons, trapeze time, letters, and joy you give to me!
10b. The Just For Love benefit show that my NECCA family did for me was amazing beyond words. I was so caught up in the hugging, dancing, laughing, partying aspect of it, about to implode from joy, that I almost forgot about the money part of it and then suddenly realized, OMG, all this love & joy AND I GET TO PAY THE RENT, TOO!! :) I LOVE YOU GUYS! I wish I could personally thank every person that was there, but there were hundreds. :) Thank you, friends, and thank you, Mom, Dad, John, Nan, Austin, Adriane, Finn, Pam, and Loyall!
10c. A whole bunch of friends brought me delicious, home-cooked meals for the first week after surgery! Lasagna, mac 'n cheese, chili, veggie rice stirfry and mochi, minestrone soup and salad, chocolate, bread, spinach quiche, tofu veggie pie!! Thank you, Anna, Deena & Danny, Supriya, Serenity, Hannah & Julia, Suzanne, Anneka!
10d. My family is so awesome, helps me financially, loves me unconditionally, gives me support or space depending on what I need, and helps me in way too many ways for me to list. My mom, especially, has been with me every step of the way and I'm so grateful for the bond we share and for how honest we are able to be with each other about everything!
11. A dear friend of mine with inside knowledge convinced me to not continue with the hospital where I had my biopsy, and instead go to the hospital I'm at now, and I am SO SO glad, because...
12. I have the best surgeon EVER. (Everyone who knows her agrees! :)) None of us expected I'd have to go for three surgeries, but I kind of didn't mind, because being with K is fun! She makes me laugh so much my BP is always elevated when the nurses have to check my vitals! Ending the surgical phase of treatment is bittersweet, because obviously I'm glad to be done with surgery, but I'm truly going to miss K. She didn't just take the cancer out of my breast, she filled the cavity (so close to my heart!) with sunshine and laughter and magic dust!
13. For the past 8 months, my main source of income has been my work as a minute-taker. I'm employed by the City Clerk's office of a town in NH. I really love this work, and my bosses are wonderfully kind and understanding and flexible! The work is perfect for me right now, because most of it is work I can do at home at whatever time works best for me, in my pajamas if I feel like it, and it's not physically strenuous, and it pays well. This is exactly the kind of work that I can do in the midst of cancer treatments. (I just wish it was more than 5-10 hrs/wk!!)
14. Bronwyn's yoga class helps me so much! I'm so grateful to have a yoga class that I LOVE, at a time that works for my schedule, just a couple miles from my house, affordable, and taught by one of my best friends. This is a rare find.
15. I live 1.5 miles from an awesome natural foods co op that has ALL of the anti-cancer foods I need - organic, local, fair trade, affordable thanks to my membership, and delicious.
16. I have a wonderful naturopath, and her services are covered by my insurance!!!
17. Ditto for my wonderful chiropractor!! (But Julie, I still miss you!)
18. I have an apartment, electricity, clean water, nourishing food, a warm cozy bed, a sweet cat, a car that works, and a great laptop.
19. Despite having cancer, I am in excellent health overall. My immune system kicks ass. My antioxidant levels are through the roof. My body heals so well, and the scar on my breast is GORGEOUS. (Thanks partly to my body's healing capabilities, and partly to K's sewing. ;))
20. I live 2 miles from a CIRCUS SCHOOL, where I get to do TRAPEZE!! How amazing is that?!? It's been 4 years now but I won't ever take this for granted!
21. I was freaking out about the upcoming 6 weeks of radiation, especially because the only local radiologist is male and I absolutely cannot deal with any more men touching my breasts. But guess what, he's going on vacation for 2 weeks in March and will have a female radiologist covering for him, and I can start my radiation during this time!
22. I feel lucky that the cancer is in my breast, and not my lung, liver, brain, etc. My breasts are the only part of my body that I can remove if necessary without my life being threatened or without losing function.
23. I'm learning SO much from this experience of dealing with cancer...so much about myself and the world and life in general. It's helping me focus on what's really important in life, and letting go of what's not. I'm learning to put on my own oxygen mask first before trying to help others with theirs, which is a lifelong lesson I've struggled with. I'm learning to love and care for myself in new, radical, real ways.
24. I'm alive, and the sun is shining, and I have just spent over an hour counting my blessings!