Breast cancer: 12 months in 12 minutes

by Thursday, August 14th, 2014Breast Cancer34 comments

Today marks one year since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember it was a very nice day much like today. It was kind of hard to enjoy because we knew the call could come, but as the day went on I didn’t think it was going to happen. The call came around 3:45 p.m. and it could have gone either way. It was just so surreal when the radiologist said, “Yeah, the biopsy shows that there are cancer cells”. I sat on the bed with Mark by my side trying to grasp what was being said. I hung the phone up, and all I remember is we just sat there and held each other and cried. I guess I must have made a few phone calls to our families but that all seems a blur to me. The one strong memory that I do have is that Mark needed to be right next to me all night. If he was across the room he just didn’t seem to be close enough to me.

A couple nights after we got the news, Karen and Kevin invited us out to their house for dinner. We went out on their boat and listened to Tig Notaro LIVE with new, heightened appreciation.

Going through all of this has been exhausting, draining, and very emotional. I didn’t think it was going to be such a long process. I’m not sure what I expected.

I knew I would have to go through chemo (5 months), and that I would lose all my hair, that I would have a mastectomy. I didn’t expect to have emergency surgery due to a staph infection and then have 6 weeks of antibiotics administered through a PICC line in my arm.

I did plan on 6 weeks of radiation, 25 treatments to the whole chest wall on my right side and then 5 boost treatments to the incision area where the tumor and lymph nodes were removed. What I didn’t expect was that twenty days after radiation ended, I would have to have surgery to have the tissue expander in my right breast removed because of the reaction to the skin on that radiated breast.

So now that leaves me with one expander on my left side. I will have the right breast back once my final reconstruction is completed next year. I guess I was kind of naive to think that I wouldn’t have any complications. My mind was just focused on getting rid of the cancer, and I didn’t give much thought to what else could happen.

Breast cancer patient Amy Czerniec in Racine, Wisconsin at sunset
Putting this video together, it’s been interesting to see my transformation. I want my old hair back. When I was diagnosed I felt like I was in the best shape I had been in for a very long time. I think that somehow my body was telling me, “Get into good shape, because you’re going to need it.” Since going through my treatments and surgeries, I have gained some weight and haven’t been able to exercise like I did. I feel so out of shape. Just when I think I can start exercising like I used to, something goes wrong. Looking back at all this footage, I know I can do it again.

One of the biggest things I never thought of was how depression can take hold after cancer treatments. I had never experienced depression before my cancer diagnosis. It’s really something to have to deal with. I know I just need to take it one day at a time, and try to quiet that voice in my head. I need to keep an open conversation with Mark, or whoever else is around. When I close up and don’t communicate is when I feel the worst.

I believe that sharing my story through my blog has helped me to cope with all of this. I have been able to communicate to my family and friends what I am going through, and how things are progressing. One thing I really never thought of was all the great connections that I would make with other women (or couples) around the world who have either been where I was, or are going through a cancer diagnosis at the same time. That has made me feel so strong and happy to be alive.

In the meantime, my hair is coming back slowly but surely (or should I say curly?). I walked in my first Relay for Life event. I will be getting my stitches out next week. For sure, I will be getting out for more walks and back on the bike and, who knows, maybe out for a run sometime soon. I am really ready to get back to how things used to be.

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