Two Year Cancerversary

On this day two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

When you first get the call that you have cancer, you aren’t given a lot of information: the biopsy that you’ve received indicates malignant cells in your body, but you don’t yet know how far it has spread. Staging is determined later. In my case, that meant the doctors had found cancer in my left breast and adjacent underarm. It would be another three long weeks before I was giving my staging and prognosis, during which I first met my oncologist, learned about the basics of cancer, was induced for labor with Corey, and received a variety of scans, including an MRI, PET/CT, and my first mammogram, which I do not recommend receiving while lactating and with a giant tumor in your breast– 0 out of 5 stars on that one, haha.

Corey and me: Dec. 2019, Dec. 2020, & Dec. 2021

My medical team discovered that despite the large size of the tumor, and the fact that there were at least two tumors present, my cancer hadn’t spread beyond my lymph nodes, which meant Dr. B. could give me the uplifting “essentially curable” prognosis as opposed to the terrifying “3 to 5 year” one. Of course, cancer is unpredictable, and it is difficult to use statistics to determine an individual’s success with treatment, life after treatment, and long-term life expectancy. But statistics are a key tool that the medical team will reference. Statistics were used to determine my course of treatment, which would be six rounds of a toxic combination known as TCHP (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta), followed by surgery and radiation, and then a continued year of therapy with two of the drugs, Herceptin and Perjeta, which are highly successful in fighting the type of cancer I had– HER2+, ER/PR- invasive ductal carcinoma, a less common type that is only about 4% of yearly breast cancer diagnoses. It’s a more aggressive type of breast cancer, which is why my tumors grew so quickly, but it’s also really effective to treat with these targeted therapies, which means I’m likely to stay in remission for a long time– hopefully forever.

Of course, cancer is the mysterious “emperor of maladies”, which makes it difficult to predict even with our modern technology. That is one of the reasons why being in remission is still a frightening prospect: you never know if or when your cancer will return, and it can be difficult to know if the weird new pains you’re feeling after cancer are from everything your body just went through, some other benign and unrelated ailment, or if the threat has returned, despite everything you’ve thrown at it. And telling others your worries can make them think you’re paranoid or ungrateful, especially if you “seem” to be doing well.

I can’t lie: I am doing fairly well. I have a whole host of new aches and pains that come from dragging your body through hell for a year, but I overall feel good most days. Despite cancer’s uncertainty, I am only slightly paranoid about recurrence and only sometimes get angry or disheartened about the fact that I had to be one of those rare statistics, women who get cancer in their thirties, when pregnant, or the fact that I had to be sick for my youngest son’s first months of life, or the fact that a pandemic had to cast its shadow over all of it, emphasizing the already lonely process of cancer treatment and making hospital visits even more complicated. Seriously, what were the odds? Somedays, it all just seems so incredibly unlikely and ridiculous that there are only two options: cry, or laugh. (If you know me, you’ll know I tend to lean toward the latter, more than willing to say something inane for a chuckle, and I have to admit that cancer lends itself to some intriguing dark humor.)

Most days, I am happy and appreciative. I am not the same person that I was before cancer, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I’m more confident in what I want and what sacrifices I’m willing to make involving work or my daily life. I feel more peaceful and grounded in my faith and in my everyday thoughts. I still have hopes and dreams for the far-off, uncertain future, but I’m more aware of making solid plans and taking actions in the present. I’m less prone to worry about the innocent everyday concerns and more appreciative of the little moments, laughing with my kids even when the house is covered in Play-Doh and Nerf darts. I still have struggles, of course, but many pale in the light of what I’ve already gone through, and it makes me more willing to try something new or to speak my mind. I can better understand someone else who is going through difficulty or trauma, and I try to listen better to everyone, especially those whose background and experiences are far different than my own. I’ve always loved learning, but cancer reminded me of how much more I want to learn and experience. I better understand myself and feel assured that I want to make a positive difference in this world: to make people laugh or smile in my daily interactions, to reach my students through my bad jokes and willingness to listen, and through my writing to hopefully make others reflect upon the world, admire its joys and beauties, and desire to piece its brokenness together.

6 thoughts on “Two Year Cancerversary

    1. Thank you for the comment. It’s always encouraging to meet another warrior survivor! I haven’t heard from many other women who are HER2+. I hope your treatment is going well and with minimal side effects. All the best to you!


  1. Hello. I really wanted to comment on this post of yours at first, but I realized I needed enough time to get my thoughts together — so here it goes. First up, kudos to you for making it through the grueling process of chemo and other treatments.

    Your struggles remind me of my mom’s, who died in August of last year. She was also HER2-positive, but managed to complete her treatment in 2017 — a year after her initial Stage 1 diagnosis. She also finished the radiation therapy, and was on medicine to prevent remission by 2018.

    Little did we know that while her breast cancer diagnosis was cleared, it had spread to the other organs. It was already mid-2021 when her oncologist gave the grim declaration: Her cancer had metastasized to Stage 4 and she had only less than a year to live. She initially doubted the prediction, but eventually came to accept her fate before she left.

    Again, kudos to you for surviving the uphill climb — especially for your child!


    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. I hope that you have many special memories with her.

      I’ve learned that cancer is really a very sneaky enemy; my oncology team has been very honest with me that the cancer can still reappear anytime and anywhere even though we gave it our all in the meantime. They really like statistics, but I worry at times about the people who make up that small percentage and who it will include. I’ve decided the best we can do is just keep swimming and trying to fit in as much goodness in the time we’re allotted.


      1. “The best we can do is just keep swimming and trying to fit in as much goodness in the time we’re allotted.”

        Definitely agreeing with you on this! I believe Mom followed this adage — and as such, she left this world without any pain. Her departure was peaceful, and she had no unfinished business here on earth.

        May you remain safe and healthy!

        Liked by 1 person

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