It was one of the best nights of my life. After having front row seats to the Beyonce Formation concert, I was on an ultimate high. I crashed in the bed at 1:00 am, anxiously looking to recap the night. I scrolled through picture after picture on my phone, grinning at how remarkable the night had been. As I rested my phone near my chest to brace for a better view, I could see a raised lump. The site of the lump was not too frightening at the time, but I immediately knew that whatever the knot was, it didn’t belong there.
One month later; after an OBGYN visit, a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 3, 2016 at 36 years old. This was the start of my cancer journey.
After the initial shock, to me it was simple. If it were up to me, my treatment plan would be to have the tumor surgically removed and then continue on with my life after a few weeks. But it’s far more complicated than that.
I was diagnosed with Stage 2, estrogen positive invasive ductal carcinoma. When you’re diagnosed, it seems as if the process moves very swiftly at first. A plethora of hard decisions that impact the rest of your life have to be made in a matter of days. Having said that, in three weeks post diagnosis, I removed both breast. I thought that having a double mastectomy was enough. The doctors thought otherwise.
My surgical oncologist insisted that I do radiation. It was my plastic surgeon that rebutted that course of treatment. I did a second surgery to remove additional skin against my surgical oncologist wishes but with my plastic surgeons persistence. My plastic surgeon secured clear margins during my second surgery. But to my surprise and horror there were still 1 cm of cancer cells left in my right breast. Although I avoided radiation because of my second procedure. I still had to do chemotherapy.
No one tells you how much you lose when you have cancer. Since I had surgery and chemotherapy, I lost my breast, my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and the possibility for more children. There were mornings when I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself.
But the beautiful thing about my journey is that I gained so much more than I lost. A year later, most of what cancer took has been replaced with something much better. I have hair and my eyebrows and eyelashes back. I also have new breast thanks to reconstructive surgery.
But that’s not what’s most important. I have met some incredible people along this journey. I have found strength and companionship among other survivors. My faith in God has quadrupled. I am more passionate, more loving and more grateful for each day.
I could say that having cancer was some of the worst days of my life. But I won’t. Instead I will say that overcoming cancer gave me a new outlook on life. It was a beautiful experience that was painful at its worst (physically and emotionally), humbling at its core and rewarding in the end.
Now when I look in the mirror I still don’t recognize myself. I’m different. I’m a better version of the old me. I’ve been elevated to a warrior with immense strength and a clear purpose. I certainly have the battle scars to prove it. I will continue to raise awareness, educate and help others in being their own health advocate and their best selves. ~ Channte