Denise with her family.
Courtesy of Denise Albert
I’ve written this piece so many times in my head. Now that I’m actually typing it … I realize it is hard to share these thoughts. Each time I share something I try to convey my experiences; my life, my journey with breast cancer, my experience with the TSA, my divorce, parenting and my work, in an authentic way that perhaps also may help others.
I have written and said I have never thought, “Why Me?” when dealing with my cancer. I have said that I knew why. I felt I had a voice and a way to help others. I would be lying though if I didn’t admit that in the past few months I did think, “Why Me?” I wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t admit I have felt sorry for myself. You know what … I think that’s okay too. I have gone through a lot beyond my chemo and radiation treatments.
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My sharing what I’m going through now, and the appointments I have had in the past few months with my dermatology oncologist, urology oncologist, GI oncologist, gynecological oncologist and rheumatologist, comes with a reminder. The reminder is for those of you who have cancelled a recent doctor appointment … probably because you felt it didn’t fit in your schedule. The reminder is to re-schedule it.
I wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t admit I have felt sorry for myself.
No need to be an alarmist but if something doesn’t feel right in your body, or if you notice some sort of change, it’s very important to check it out. For the past year I have been feeling side effects of my treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, a drug to shut down my ovaries and another medicine which I have to take for ten years, called an aromatase inhibitor, which is supposed to help ensure my cancer doesn’t return. Along with all of this, and as a side effect, I began menopause which also comes with it’s own set of side effects, though luckily many I have just learned to deal with.
However, I still felt something wasn’t right. One doctor led to another which led to another which led to another. Basically I’m now working on an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the doctor’s names, what they do and the explanations of some of the test results. The good news though, after a lot of worrying and anxiety, is that I don’t have bladder or liver cancer, which I was concerned about. Now I understand why my doctor never wanted to give me a full body scan. (I wasn’t in need of one apparently!). But now I get it. The more they look, the more the find.
But now here’s the recent reason for the “Why Me?” I was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis. I immediately asked if this was due to any of my treatment. The answer is that it very likely is; but I also want to be clear why I’m sharing this. When I found out, I stayed in bed all day and cried. I hadn’t done that before. You know what, it felt great. It’s just that simple. Also, it reminded me for those of you going through your own treatments, that every one is different. Each treatment is different. Each person responds differently. No two people are the same. It reminded me how important it is to do things that make me feel good. It reminded me about the importance of letting go of things that don’t matter. It reminded me once again how in many ways, I’m so lucky.
It reminded me how important it is to do things that make me feel good.
I was lucky with my cancer diagnosis; though it’s funny to think that. It reminded me that while I was feeling sorry for myself I quickly thought about all of those in my cancer community who lost their lives this year. I reminded myself that while I may be unlucky in some ways; I’m still here. I can still do things to feel good. I can still enjoy life with my kids and family.
I can still travel with my kids. We can tour and explore the world together like we did in Iceland this summer. I was able to experience the Blue Lagoon. I was able to tour an Ice Cave. I was able to get on a plane for the trip of a life time (though I have to get up and stretch a lot!)
It takes me time to get out of bed in the morning. I have to bend over and reach for the floor many times a day. I have to shift positions often. Yes, after sitting in the same seat for over 20 minutes, I look like an 80-year-old woman getting up.
But then I’m okay. So I keep moving. I keep living. I keep laughing. I’m alive and mostly just so happy about that.