Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Big C

At age 34, with a BMI of 29 that places me at overweight but not quite obese yet, I have always expected that the disease that would eventually get me to be high blood pressure or stroke. Maybe a heart attack.

After all, high blood pressure runs in the maternal side of my family, and my Dad suffered from two strokes over a period of two years, the second of which severely debilitated him.
Although I have always been quite healthy, with excellent blood pressure and other vitals, I did sense that with hitting my 30s, the stress of work and taking care of my disabled Dad, my health was starting to slip. But again, I was still more concerned with heart attacks or strokes. Never cancer.

And there, I said it. Cancer.

At age 34, just about a month after my birthday, on 24 March 2017, I was informed that I have breast cancer. My actual official diagnosis was actually the day after when I went to see my Breast Specialist for the test reports. My appointment with her for the diagnosis was actually scheduled for the following week after a series of tests, but she was kind enough to give me a call to go in, on a Saturday no less, once she knew the results as she wanted to give me my diagnosis as soon as possible, and discuss treatment options.

You know it's something deep shit when a doctor from a busy public restructured hospital wants to see you as soon as possible. Although I was and still am deeply appreciative to have been referred to her. More about her in later posts.

Although it has only been about a week after my diagnosis, it feels like time kind of just expanded. Like it's already been a month rather just seven days. There is so much to research, so much to learn, so much to unlearn. Everything I knew about myself, about my own health, my habits, my lifestyle and my own body has to be taken apart and reconstructed. I feel like my brain had never worked harder than the past week, trying to process all the information I have been given or found, into puzzle pieces that fits together into a big picture.

And yet, I know, with such pristine clarity, that this is not the hardest part at all. The hardest part is actually remembering that I have cancer. I still feel pretty much myself, nothing seems to have change. Except every time I look at my breasts in the mirror, the poor leftie that now looks different from the cancer and the biopsy.

I guess this is the one thing that is the most profound to me thus far. That I have cancer, CANCER, and yet, everything else around me is still the same. And that I still feel the same. Although I know soon, I will probably not feel like myself for quite a while. Which really saddens me and is why I feel that remembering I have cancer is the hardest part for me. Because regardless of the difficult times I have been through, especially in recent years, I have always love being me. This is not a narsiccist thing, but just the fact of enjoying who and what I am, and what I have. My love ones, my friends, the joys and pleasures in my life, the senses and abilities given to me. These has always given me such incredible happiness. I hate to think that I will start feeling differently, because of whatever treatment or procedure I have to go through

That said, I made up my mind from the day I decided to go see the GP and was told that there was definitely something wrong, that I had to be positive. That being positive is part of the formula to winning this battle, and that positivity kill cancer cells. I guess I somehow managed to lull myself into this consistent state of joviality, and taking each step with cheer and humour. I mean, of course, there were tears. And there will be tears to come. This is big; but it does not mean I shouldn't at least try to go through this experience with a little more laughter and fun.

And of course, I am very grateful that I won't be doing this alone. I did not really keep it a big secret, because I know that support is the most important thing anyone going through something like this needs. From the day I decided not to ignore the signs anymore, I told all the friends I talk to on a daily basis, which is more than a handful because I am such talkative person, and also the immediate colleagues from my department whom I am really close to. The people who I know won't kick me into a long kang if it turns out to be a benign lump. I did not tell my Mother until much later, but that's another story for another time. This post is getting long enough as it is.

After getting my diagnosis, I decided that rather than letting the gossip mill dissipate the wrong grains of information and creating all sorts of weird misunderstandings, I wanted to be the one to manage how this gets out. So I started telling more people. Friends whom I haven't met and/or talked to in a while, colleagues who are also good friends, colleagues who I work closely with and may be affected if I have to take a prolonged leave of absence, etc etc. I also started sharing my experience with some female relatives, especially those who are younger and may not even think to do self-examinations. At this point, I figured that if my experience can encourage even one person to be more vigilant, it will really make all this worthwhile. Yeah, I know, I am saintly like that. ;)

Although I have to say, it has been a very exhausting endeavour, the telling and going through the entire recounting of discovery to diagnosis and the options that I have so many times. Not bragging here, but I really do have a lot of friends. =)  But it is still something I wanted to do. Simply because I know these people care about me, and I want them to know about this life-changing thing that is happening to me right now.

As the days go by, I also realise that the other thing I really wanted to do, is to blog about it. Blogging has always been something that holds a place in my heart. Although I have been really bogged down with the other things in my life for the past couple of years, I have never forgotten about this space of mine. Where I poured myself into for a better part of my life. Whenever I felt stressed out or really down, I would pull out some old posts and feel better after reading them, knowing that life is constructed of many up and down moments, and that unhappiness never last.

Hopefully, I will get to that day soon, when I am able to read back on these posts about my experience with cancer, and feel that sense of peace knowing that I have made it through.

For now, all I shall stay positive and continue pushing forward!