Thursday, October 01, 2009
An End and a Beginning
Treatment came and went in what now feels like the blink of an eye. In these last couple of months I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my cancer journey and how it has changed my life. After my first diagnosis in 2004, I ran, scared, half-believing I was going to be okay, and tried to pick up where my life left off before cancer. I wanted cancer to go away so I could wipe the slate clean as though it never existed, but that was rather difficult. No matter how much I crammed into my life, cancer wouldn't be squeezed out. First thee was the lengthy reconstruction process and then there was the Tamoxifen. I hated Tamoxifen. I'd like to think I don't "hate" anything, but I hated that drug. I was tired, achy, had pain in my legs and joints, sweaty hot flashes, and just general malaise. I tried to push through and move forward, but BAM!, cancer reared its ugly head again.

This time was going to be different. I was going to be a brave conquering warrior through every step. I worked out nearly every day in my fierce "Chemolicious" t-shirt and Harley Davidson do-rag (a gift of battle gear from a dear friend) to cover the blinding baldness. I made it through tedious radiation treatments and survived painful significant burns to my neck and axilla. And through it all, like many other women, I carried on with my life: working, volunteering, taking care of family( as they all took care of me). Beyond making a decision that cancer would not stop me, I made a decision to be kind to myself and nurture myself along the way. To teach myself how to do this (because you know I am a classic "do everything for others and make yourself the lat priority kind of gal"), I planted a garden. I had to learn how to care for the plants and how to help them grow and blossom. How much water did they need? How much sun? Did they need nutrients or more soil? I couldn't put it aside for later. I had to daily tend to the needs. Each day I saw progress. It became a great metaphor for taking care of myself.

Along the way, I saw reminders that I was loved and not going through this alone. Whether it was encouraging cards or visits or phone calls, random acts of kindness, or special messages sent from....well, I can't answer that. Was it from the Universe? God? My mom? An angel? The hearts that were sent in my path randomly made me feel loved and secure no matter who sent them. And they keep coming.

As I have written before, they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it was something on the sidewalk that had my doggies' attention ...

Or making an appearance in a piece of veggie bacon...

Or yes, the ultimate of visions.....

A tortilla. Whole wheat nonetheless. But don't line up at my door to see it. After I appreciated the message of love, it made a tasty vegetarian fajita.

And for those of little faith, there were some very specific hearts as well. One by my house and one in the parking lot the day I started physical therapy.

The rigorous treatment has come to an end. My time is now focused on regaining range of motion and strengthening my arm that suffered nerve damage from surgery and further scar tissue build up and damage from radiation. I am also juggling the side effects of Lupron injections (to shut down my ovaries) and Aromasin for ongoing hormone therapy (for the next few years at least). Luckily I am responding well to physical therapy and The Great Reiki Experiment 2009 (more to come on that). I'm moving forward and trying to continue to nurture myself, growing through everything life has thrown in my path. The garden experiment has taught me well. All kinds of things are blooming and growing...




Horsetail Bamboo

Pink Promise Rose

My hair!

Everything is growing indeed.

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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