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Yes!!! Tomorrow is the day designated as National Previvor Day. Thanks to the efforts of all those who support women and men with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) risks and groups like FORCE and Be Bright Pink, among many others, we have a day which celebrates our life and struggles to preserve it. We’re called previvors because we’re not survivors of cancer, but have preempted the threat by increasing awareness or taking drastic measures to prevent it. We’re called previvors because we are living in spite of the threat.

Living….to me that means I am surviving.  While I know some people are very opposed to the term “previvor” for varied reasons and I know they would be even more livid if we called ourselves survivors, I feel like a survivor. I have survived the pain and loss that cancer has inflicted on my family. Both of my parents fought valiantly and gracefully in the face of a terrifying parasite that ate their bodies and their lifestyles. Their souls stayed strong and that’s what gives me strength today. I survived the paralyzing knowledge that I carry a mutation to the tumor supressing gene that put me at a horrifying risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. Yes, my ovaries were gone by the time I learned of my mutation, but that relief was barely felt when I thought of my breast cancer risk. I am surviving the tortuous thought that my child may have had the gene passed on to him. I say surviving because my daughter has been spared, thank God, and now I worry about my son. I have survived the incredibly dark 2-3 years of my life, during which time I lost my mother, learned of my mutation and subsequently fell completely out of touch with myself. I lost friends. I lost the security I had in my work. I had a job I loved and was damn good at it. I was friends with my managers and was respected. That all changed because I couldn’t handle the pain of losing my mother, making the decision to remove my breasts and fighting with the insurance company. I became dark, impatient, scared, and angry. I had 3 surgeries in one year and I’m still recovering. I lost my self esteem when my body was so drastically changed. It didn’t (doesn’t) feel like me….hell I’m numb in my breasts and across my abdomen. Yep, it was my choice. The alternative was cancer. No brainer, really.

But, here’s the thing, I know where I am now. I’m awake. I’m fighting for my self esteem, fighting for security in the decisions I made, but I’m also fighting for what everyone else is fighting for. I’m fighting for my kids to grow up happy and successful, to watch them enjoy life, to play with grandkids and grow old with my husband. I am a survivor…a survivor of life. There’s more to come, more to survive….but, that’s the plan. Survive.

Happy National Previvor Day everyone. Celebrate the ones you love and the life you have. All my friends and family, I remember you and love you.

Fight Cancer Together

A new aquaintance, David Haas, has asked me to post his short article (click the link above) about utilizing support systems to fight cancer. I think this also applies to those of us who have battled with the decisions, and aftermath of the decisions, surrounding a BRCA mutation.

I have been absent from my blog for some time and have been meaning to get back to writing. This request has prompted me to continue. While some of you may not care to read my thoughts, it’s therapeutic for me and I’ve been away too long.

As we approach another National Previvor Day, I have to look back on the journey I started 2 years ago. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster of emotions and serious fallout. I recieved the knowlege of my mutation after my mother’s death and made the decision to remove my breasts. I had no emotional reserves or coping strength in the tank after my mother’s death and I certainly failed at getting through this with any grace whatsoever. I lost friends, treated people badly, had to migrate away from my ER nursing career and barely kept my head above water. That’s not even delving into my absence as a mother and a wife. I had complications to my surgery that left me feeling hopeless and lost. Maybe PTSD is what I was going through. If I had to diagnose myself with anything that would be it. You can read back, if you like, and see how truly derailed I was for a while. I now have a very centered, grounded appreciation of what I’ve gone through. I am taking better care of myself (I gained over 50 pounds after my mother’s death and my surgeries). I’ve lost almost all the weight I gained, work out regularly and eat a very healthy diet. Though I still have a bulge on the left side of my abdomen, above my incision, and there is a section of my rectus muscle on the left side that is now denervated, I am accepting of my physical condition and appearance. I’m focused on being the strongest and healthiest I can be. A little section of atrophied abdominal muscle isn’t gonna stop me. Here’s me now…please ignore the cheesy background, particularly the tag laying on the floor….hey, at least it’s from a workout garment, hee hee.

Knowing there is support out there, and recieving it from a true sisterhood of women in similar circumstances helped me tremendously. I found support with FORCE at www.facingourrisk.org and Be Bright Pink at www.bebrightpink.com. I encourage people to look at my blogroll to find even more resources that are available for support. I want to shout out to all the people who have given me support over the last 2 years. Family, friends on facebook, co-workers, all of you from the smallest smile in greeting, compliment, or genuine in-depth conversation about my story have truly gotten me through a very dark time in my life. I thank all of you from the bottom of my healed heart.

So here’s to National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and the upcoming National Previvor Day. I’m still going along as best I can. I’m a previvor and I’m proud of it.