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This Life

My HER2+ Breast Cancer Journey

Recently diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2021, I'm writing about my experiences as a cathartic release and to remember my journey.

Round 5 – Seeing the Light

October 31, 2021

I am a woman, I’m supposed to be strong.
I’m supposed to be all for many.
When I hurt and I’m torn I must move on,
to daily conceal each new break.

Each sliver of pain brings lasting effects,
yet I feel selfish to dwell in those rifts…
Because I am a woman, I’m supposed to be strong
and move forward despite each raw ache.
—APN 10/31/2021

Today is Halloween and it is officially five days past round 5 of chemotherapy. I am grateful for many things thus far during my experience on this journey, mostly, the ease with which my body has undergone the trauma of receiving toxic chemicals. While I can be grateful for not having experienced the extremes of many terrible reactions most women undergo throughout chemotherapy, including loss of hair, that is not to say that my spirit has not been incredibly burdened. There are many days I am grateful for what I have NOT experienced, however, there are also more when I am saddened by what I feel is a loss of my previous life. While I can be grateful for many things and be aware of having a favorable journey, it’s equally important to be aware that even though others may have more difficult experiences, it should not diminish the hardships of mine.

This has arguably been the most difficult of all the chemotherapy rounds for me mentally and physically. I am so close to being done with this portion of my treatment. Tuesdays are the cycle days that are pretty much 10 hours days. I wake to make myself a quick light breakfast and prepare myself mentally to walk in to the clinic with a happy face and positive attitude to get that treatment over with starting at 8:30am. By 2-3 pm we are walking out the door headed home to continue cold cap therapy to save my hair, finishing up towards 6-7 pm in the evening. It is a long taxing day of sleep and wake and constant movement to finish. As positive as I wanted to be, I was incredibly anxious this past Tuesday; my stomach upset on the way to the hospital worried about the cumulative effects of the drugs being siphoned through me. The toxins build up as they destroy everything in you at a cellular level. I fight every day to keep my body together; to keep my organs hydrated, to keep my skin moist, to heal cuts, scrapes and bruises that just happen as part of daily life; to mend the destruction of my once youthful body, rest and keep my mind at peace. It’s an uphill battle, but I keep moving forward.

Prior to Tuesday, by the way, my right leg was really bothering me, especially my knee. It was just aching terribly. My oncologist’s P.A. sent me to have a doppler test done on my leg to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot. I was so worried but my technician was so awesome at setting my mind at ease during the test. I was so happy when he told me everything was fine and I was free to go home. I have just been doing my best to stretch my leg and exercise it to ease the ache.

It’s now Sunday and my body is still reeling from round 5. By Friday, it usually bounces back and I’m good to go and move on with the next two weeks, but not today. I am still nauseated, not enough to lose my cookies, but enough that it has stopped me from wanting to be active at all this weekend. Friday and Saturday I had to break down and ask for help. It’s really so difficult for me to ask for help because I truly don’t want to burden anyone. I want to be strong. I don’t want to be a failure.  I want to show people I can do things. Yesterday, I really needed to be taken care of, actually, I needed it all week. Luckily, my sweet niece, Lizzie, happened to be on her way home from work Friday and brought me some soup. I could only stomach chicken broths. I was so grateful again on Saturday that she and my sister, Shari, came to care for me again and make me homemade chicken soup. Chicken soup is good for the soul, right? It was soooo healing.

In fact, Friday and Saturday, when I needed to feel loved, not only did my family take care of me, friends messaged me to check in; gave me much needed pep talks when I asked for butt kickings, and I even received an unexpected message from a client about how much she loved her son’s senior session. It just made me feel so loved at a time when it’s really difficult not to feel so alone during this journey. Why do I feel alone when people are so willing to help? All I have to do is ask and yet it is so difficult for me to do. People genuinely want to help but they don’t know how until you ask for what you need, so I suppose if you are experiencing something difficult my advice is to just ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help! I asked for soup. 😊

I’m hoping to be over feeling bad tomorrow. I’m finishing up client work this week before taking time off for the rest of the year to get through surgery and complete my treatment for this year. I don’t think I’ll be done completely until the summer of 2022. It’s been really nice that most people are unaware of what I am going through and I can still work which helps to keep my mind actively focused on something else, especially when it makes my clients SO happy they send me sweet messages of appreciation. It makes me feel good, and needed, and gives me purpose.

So, this is round 5. I am holding on to my hair. Gripping tightly to my youthfulness even if in my mind only, and still hoping to get out of this experience as unscathed as possible. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but man I’m really needing a push to that finish line.

Wish me luck. I’m wishing myself luck. ~Angela


Above: with Dalia and Flory at the clinic; doppler test on my leg; thumbs up, no blood blot; working with headshot clients on Thursday, don’t be fooled, afterward I laid on my studio floor for the rest of the day.

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