Julia is a Boober! who was invited to attend our "Renew, Restore, Retreat" this year and couldn't make it. Since she's many years out from her diagnosis, she had these thoughts to share about women who, like her, are at least a few years beyond treatment. We thought we'd pass along her insights and thoughtful words!
...I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 44 (stage 1, estrogen receptor positive).
I had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. I think no matter how good or bad your diagnosis is, it is a very traumatic experience and very frightening. Somehow reason and common sense don’t quite work anymore. It’s a challenge to find a balance and normalcy. But during this journey and through many doctor’s visits I had some words that stuck with me for years. You were probably told that the survival rate is 12 years. In your state of shock you don’t really understand the meaning. For me, it sounded like a death sentence in 12 years. I could not find any reason or sense in these words. I went on a search for survivors of more than that. I became obsessed with it. I joined Dr. Reed’s support group, I went to a retreat offered by Beyond Boobs! several years ago, and took part at the event “Dancing with the Survivors.” But I never met anybody who was a survivor for more of 4 or 5 years. I know it would have helped me to know at least one long-term survivor.
Today I am cancer-free for 9 years. My check-ups have been all good so far, and I feel good. Besides minor long-term side effects from radiation (times of fatigue, sudden pain attacks in the area of radiation), I have a normal life. I also learned that my grandmother had breast cancer in her 60s (which I never knew), and that she died of old age. Without knowing, I had a long-term survivor in front of me. She passed away over 30 years ago, so she could never tell me her story. There is a life after breast cancer, and there is a very good chance to live a long life and grow old. I don’t worry about numbers any more. I try things that I always wanted to do. After “Dancing with the Survivors” I continued with ballroom dancing and now I am competing with my new husband in Standard and Latin ballroom dance. My second dream is to have my own business and I just started to work as a freelance Graphic Designer.
I met a lot of other survivors who also struggled with the “12 year thing”. Don’t focus on this, it only means that today’s survival rates are very good. Every person and every diagnosis is different, but with today’s treatment options we all have (in general) the best chances.
It is okay to worried and to be scared. Don’t let anyone tell you how you have to feel. You can grieve as long as you need to, and then you are ready to move on. This is your life, and you set the rules. You need to let out your grief and sadness to get your strength to fight. Beyond Boobs! is an amazing group of extraordinary women and I can’t thank you all enough for the support you give to each other.
Hugs and Love,