Most of my posts have been uplifting and encouraging and I try to keep it that way because truthfully, most of my life is filled with joy, even within the sorrow that a cancer diagnosis (storm) brings. I am human though and I do have bad days, even now. I have moments where grief hits me all over again. I know I am not alone. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer suffer from PTSD at some point after their diagnosis. I wish I had been aware of this after my diagnosis, but I didn’t make the connection until MONTHS later. I remember the feeling of detachment and numbness the first few days after diagnosis and then after receiving my “we think you’re stage IV but not sure so we will just treat you like you are” and then again 2.5 years later when I actually had confirmed stage IV. I didn’t want to wake up but inevitably I did. I didn’t want to get out of bed, let alone take care of my family. I wanted to go back to sleep and wake up from that nightmare. I knew I could either wallow in the depression and detach and become bitter, or…..I could choose joy and get better. I knew I couldn’t do both at the same time. I turned to God and he heard my cries; he lifted me out of my depression and filled my heart with joy and peace as often as I called on his name.
During my first round with cancer and treatments we lived in Hawaii. Our children were 5.5, 3.5 and 8 months at the start of treatment. I had been breastfeeding our youngest and had to give that up. For that, I grieved immensely. I was looking back at pictures from that period today and the grief hit me again. I will never, ever breastfeed another child. Baring some miracle and God having a stupid crazy sense of humor, I will never carry another child inside me (the amount of chemotherapy I’ve had has likely damaged my eggs). Although my last scans showed no evidence of disease, not only will cancer always be a concern, but my heart function has been permanently compromised due to the Herceptin (targeted antibody med) and I wonder how many years that shaved off my life. I look at pictures of my children from that time and I miss them being that little. It’s just the normal nostalgia any parent experiences looking back but mine is intertwined with these complex emotions surrounding my treatment and diagnosis. It is so very, very bittersweet.
I look back and I distinctly remember the hyper-vigilance and heightened reactions brought about by the PTSD. EVERY TIME any of our kids tripped, teetered, lost their balance, or there was the remote possibility of danger, my heart literally skipped beats, jumped in my throat, then raced for minutes and I felt nauseated. It took me minutes to calm myself down each time. When M started crawling, climbing (on EVERYTHING) and walking, these mini heart attack moments happened daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I mean, it certainly got my blood pumping and endorphins rushing so I suppose I could look at it as many mini workouts during the day that oxygenated my blood…haha!!!
In addition, I was hyper-vigilant about my food and nutrition to the point I didn’t enjoy eating. It became a monotonous routine that I dared not stray from for fear that eating the wrong thing would feed my cancer. Yes, I knew a lot about nutrition, supplements, and took control of my health but there were still so many unknowns. There is so much that I know now, that I wish I had known then. There is so much I would have done SO VERY DIFFERENTLY but, if I had, I never would have ended up here….stage IV…..with no evidence of disease. I certainly wouldn’t be continuing this blog, nor sharing my story and this amazing metabolic approach, with anyone. I probably would have gone back to my crazy busy, not-enough-time-for-anything-because-im-doing-everything life. I wouldn’t have the depth of the empathy I have, I wouldn’t have as sensitive a life view of living in the present, because today is not guaranteed, I wouldn’t be as attentive to my children, husband, and those around me. I wouldn’t be as intentional about sharing the gospel as I am now. In the midst of the PTSD, depression, anxiety, grief, and heartache, God was working in my body and in my soul.
Take this image for example: Instead of being angry that I experienced 2 days of fatigue after each chemo treatment, I cherished the fact that my twice daily naps lined up with our little one’s nap schedule and I thoroughly enjoyed napping WITH her. Something I rarely, if ever, did with the other two.
God was (and still is) molding me and shaping me from a proverbial lump of clay into a handcrafted vessel that could be filled up and poured out to speak hope, joy, truth, and life into the lives of others. The process of being molded and shaped is not always pleasant and at times is downright painful but without hardships, that growth is far less likely. It is easy to become complacent and inwardly focused when you are living your best life. It is in the deepest valleys, the darkest moments, that I realized the fullness of God’s unending love, the richness of His mercy, the enveloping of His perfect peace.
Can you relate? Look back on the hard times in your life and think about those who rallied around you. Was your relationship with them deepened through the trial? I am so grateful for the innumerable family, friends, and even strangers who blessed our family in big ways and small the past three years. So many relationships were deepened and I hold dear to my heart. In the midst of the rain, I chose to look for the rainbow. So if you are going through a storm, look for the light, look for the helpers, call out to God and you will find the rainbow.
Blessings to you!