Three years since I heard those words “you have cancer”.
The moment it felt like my world had ripped away. That I was no longer just living my life, I was doing anything I could to survive.
Three years of treatments, surgeries, scans upon scans, poking, prodding, and so many tears. When I look back now, it still makes me stop in my tracks, this surreal feeling wondering how I ever got through this.
The weekend after I was diagnosed, I hiked up to this lookout on Maple Mountain near my home in BC. Letting the words all sink in. Feeling so much fear and uncertainty of the path ahead. But determined to do whatever it took in order to beat this thing.
Now every year I find myself back at this spot. The jagged terrain signifying the ups and downs of my journey. Proving to myself that I can do this. That I am stronger than anything thrown at me. Reaching the top and reflecting back on where life has taken me these last few years.
The thoughts have slowly faded over time. Cancer not a part of my daily vocabulary anymore. Appointments with my oncologist becoming less frequent. The fears quieting in my mind. Finding some sense of normalcy again and basking in moments of celebration that have lifted me up through my third year.
I graduated from monthly check ups at the cancer clinic to every 3 months.
I returned to work and received a promotion that I had been working so hard towards before going off on leave.
I ran my first 10k marathon.
I flew to Toronto and participated in a campaign with the Cure Foundation alongside 4 other survivors to help fund research for breast cancer.
I travelled around the world. Made the best memories. And felt alive again.
Surrounded myself with my family and friends.
Attended survivor conferences and retreats.
Late night girl time. Laughs. Feeling this part of me coming back again.
I’m not going to sugar coat it though. This year has been a struggle for me too in different ways. Returning to work and not having the confidence in myself that I once had. The brain fog that still plagues me as I stare blankly through a conversation or at my screen. My short-term memory feeling like it’s failing me at times. Looking “normal” to others but inside fighting the anxiety that runs through me every day. Struggling with insomnia. The constant pain.
I keep trying to focus on taking care of me. Doing everything I can to continue to thrive. Working on not only my physical health but my mental health too. Understanding that there are times I will feel defeated but having the courage to take those steps to get back up. I know I can do this. Just some days I need a little more fight in me than others. A little more support to get me through.
Although I spend less time seeing my oncologist, I spend more time doing things like massage therapy, physio, acupuncture, etc. to curb all of the side effects. Signed up at a gym to try and gain strength back in my body that I’ve lost after going through five surgeries over the past three years. And went to see a sexual health therapist to finally address the struggles I’ve faced with intimacy and my complete lack of sex drive.
To be honest, I feel like this has been a transition year for me. The one where I’ve tried to get back on my feet again and back to where things used to be…sort of. It’s just more of a juggling act now. Trying to figure out what I have space for and where to focus my energy. Even as I sit here and write this, I know there will be some major changes coming ahead. Ones I need to make in order to feel my best moving forward.
For now, I celebrate my three year cancerversary. Three years thriving beyond breast cancer and looking forward to the day where I can say I’m 5 years out. 10 years. 20! And show other women that although there are struggles and sacrifices along the way, there is also hope.