Although October being breast cancer awareness month has come and gone, I still feel that it is essential to raise awareness for this disease every month and not restrict it to just 30 days of the year.
That said, I’d like to draw you attention to a company called Cure Forward. They seek to connect patients who are keen to try new cutting edge treatments. They specialize in precision medicine which is developing a growing presence in the medical field, and part of their mission is to assist patients to learn as much about their treatment options as possible whilst helping them to gain access to various precision medicine options that are not available in normal mainstream medicine.
After reading about the work that they do, I really feel that they have a valuable contribution to make with regards to getting us one step closer to a possible cure for this insidious disease. Scientists all over the world are working hard to get us one step closer to this goal, but cancer is like a Chameleon…it is a master of disguise and our cure remains ever elusive. Companies like Cure Forward are reaching for the fast forward button that can assist us in achieving the ultimate prize. To find out more you can visit: http://www.cureforward.com/#/
Being a three-time breast cancer survivor myself who is facing a triple negative stage IV prognosis, these cutting edge treatments are a very exciting prospect, because all that mainstream medicine is providing at the moment are the conventional treatments of harsh chemotherapy and other medicines that don’t necessarily work and that definitely don’t have a 100 percent foolproof track record.
My journey with breast cancer which began in 2003, is a long one filled with many ups and downs. It’s a rollercoaster ride which I haven’t been on alone. I have been forced to take my family and friends along for the ride. The highs have been indescribably exhilarating, while the lows have resembled being thrown into a very deep dark hole, with very slippery vertical walls. It takes every ounce of your will power and strength to try and claw your way out of the hole. Just as you have almost reached the top where you’re hanging on by your fingernails, and you feel like you can’t hold on any longer and are in serious danger of falling back in again, a friend or family member reaches down and takes your hand, pulling you out the rest of the way. Fighting cancer is not something that anybody can do alone. There always comes a point where you need a helping hand in some form or another, no matter how strong you think you are.
When I was first diagnosed in 2003, I was fortunate enough that it had been caught in the early stages and after a mastectomy and 6 months of chemotherapy, I was lucky enough to be in full remission for 5 years. When in 2009, it was discovered that my cancer had returned and much to my mind dumbing horror had progressed to stage IV, I felt as though I was freefalling straight back into that dark hole. There was no way that anybody could grab my hand fast enough to prevent me from falling back inside again and this time, the hole was much deeper than before. This stage of the journey was going to test my faith, strength and fortitude in every imaginable way. The closest I’ve ever come to knocking on deaths door came, when 9 months later on the day of my very last chemotherapy treatment, I was rushed into emergency surgery to have 5 litres of fluid drained from my pleural cavity that had been building up around my lungs during the arduous months of treatment. Although my religious faith had been tested to it’s limits and was indeed faltering badly, I prayed harder than I’ve ever done in my life. I wasn’t ready yet to leave my best friend and three little girls who all still needed me. It was at this stage that I threw down the gauntlet and decided that I was not going down without a fight, and so began a year and a half of slow, painful recovery.
The turning point came when in December 2012, I became part of the very first group of 12 breast cancer survivors to undertake an expedition into Antarctica to raise awareness. It was in the build up to this trip and during it, that through training and very hard work much of my faith in my body and in life in general, was restored. I had also automatically expanded on my support network, and it served me well when in 2013, I relapsed once again. I was being forced once more, kicking and screaming to embark on a trip down the same nightmare road. With 6 more months of chemotherapy behind me, I was thrilled to hear that the treatments had been effective and that I was once again in the safe zone. It’s been nearly 2 years now (touch wood) that I have been in partial remission and I’m doing well.
If I could give any woman advice when it comes to such a devastating diagnosis, it would be to do your research. The more you know about your type of breast cancer the better because it will help you to make more informed choices and avoid any regrets further down the road. Knowing more also helps to control the fear factor. Although it is very tempting, it is important to avoid playing the victim card. You have to be your own advocate and remember that no nurse or doctor can ever tell you what to do. Listen to and trust your instincts. It is your body and your life, not theirs.
Remember that breast cancer is not a death sentence. Do your research, look after your body and keep your family and friends close and soak up their love. Take some time out to have fun and relax and surround yourself with people that make you laugh and feel good about yourself. Once your treatments are over and it’s time to move forward with your life, try to do something every now and again that scares you. Step out of your comfort zone, try new things, learn new skills and push your limits every now and then. Pack as much into everyday as you can, and really live in the moment. You can never be truly happy if you’re constantly harping on about the past or fretting about the future. Don’t let your breast cancer diagnosis define who you are or how you live your life…you are so much more than that. Don’t let the fear of a recurrence hang over your head; you have no control over that anyway, and it doesn’t help to worry about something that might not even happen. Just live your life to the fullest, love to the fullest and treasure every moment.