January 2018 marks nine months since the doctor said, “I hate to tell you this first thing in the morning. [long pause] You have breast cancer.”
The tumor was large, the size of my fist and the length of my hand. I didn’t miss this mass nor did I ignore it. There was just no reason to believe it was cancer and more reasons to believe it was a cyst or benign tumor. Plus, there was a lot going on in my life, like my condo was half destroyed and I was living in a hotel with my two cats. So, a lump in my breast really had to wait until I was ready to get it checked out. And geez Louise, not what I had planned for my 19th summer in Alaska.
The diagnosis began a whirlwind of appointments and procedures. I didn’t go fishing or hiking or backpacking or any of the Alaska things I like to do. Instead, I chose the Allopathic Gold Standard of treatment for triple negative breast cancer. This includes neoadjuvant chemotherapy, unilateral mastectomy, and 33 radiation treatments.
How did the chemo summer go? Well, I’m one of the biological creatures who didn’t get physically sick from it. Often times the oncology infusion team would hear me asking if it was sugar water in the IV. I didn’t feel horrible like many told me I would. Even the “red devil” Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) seemed a less than accurate description for one of the most intense chemo drugs. It looked more orange-red than red. Why would anyone be afraid of an orange-red devil?
With the already overwhelming fears surrounding cancer treatment, why would anyone give medicine the nickname red devil? Fear does strange things to human beings.
The worst part of chemo was slow, solid, painful elimination and a reduction in blood. I mean a serious reduction like four quarts low in a five-quart engine. I was fatigued all the time for the last three weeks of October until November 10.
Chemotherapy is not fun, not even for those who are “biologically lucky.” But you know what? The tumor shrunk rapidly, 99.9% by the time surgery came.
The team was awesome, caring and good-humored. I felt loved and supported. I looked forward to going to just about all 16 infusions – which might have something to do with developing an affection for spending my Fridays with the one man whose job it was to ensure I made it through chemo feeling as comfortable as possible. I love him for that.
Working with the breast surgeon was awesome.
Surgery is my favorite part of treatment so far because it was pure bliss. I got to take a break from conscious reality for a few hours and lose 4.8 pounds!
After surgery, I was brought to room 444 on 11/10 and woke up on 11/11 in room 444 which had the last four digits of the room phone number of 1144. These numbers are messages of support from my guides and angels.
On 11/22 the bandages came off. I didn’t know how I would react, but my reaction surprised even me: Pure freedom to be a woman. For the first time in my life, I felt truly feminine. Who knew my femininity was hidden behind breasts?
I am now free to be me more than ever before.
I will never be objectified or “subjectified” because of my breasts again. No man or woman will ever accuse or abuse me in reference to my breasts again, not ever.
The New Year has brought the last part of treatment: radiation. After meeting with the Radiology team, I decided to go for it – I am curious to find out how the radiotherapy will affect my body.
Doesn’t “radiotherapy” have a better tone than “it’s time to get burned by radiation?” I do have a friend with a giant aloe vera plant in need of trimming. Good thing technology is better than 20 years ago.
The best part of this start to a new year? My first treatment begins on 1/11 at 11:10 am, no joke.
I wish I could say this journey is easy. It is not. All along the path, there are constant conscious decisions, requests for spiritual guidance, internet searches, and check-ins with friends, family, coworkers, and of course, Facebook.
What I can say is this journey is doable because allopathy, homeopathy, and naturopathy can coexist and cooperate with my inner physician, higher self, and the being that dwells within this heart. In collaboration with my medical and spiritual team: I chose this path and no one else. There is something deeply empowering about owning that.
Courage. Strength. Grace. Love. Joy. We all have gifts. We cannot return them. We can only decide whether or not to use them.
Cancer has inspired me to shine a little brighter, laugh a little harder, and love much more openly.
So if you see a brightly shining, one-boobed, fair-skinned, rosy-cheeked woman laughing in the grocery store, that’s probably me thinking about what other amazing journeys this life has waiting for me… or I’m just thinking about telling that Physician’s Assistant how much I really love him.
I’m definitely not thinking about cancer.
Mishelle Rose can be found on Facebook at Atomic Optimism.