I'm a breast cancer survivor
Thirteen years ago, I stared out at the world I knew through rose-colored glasses. I was doing what I loved and had just married my best friend. I was happy. I felt healthy. I truly believed I had it all.
Somewhere right smack in the middle of this charmed life a doctor I had gone to for no apparent reason discovered a lump in my breast. She immediately referred me to a surgeon for a biopsy. Rose-tinted shades still on, I believed it was absolutely nothing. It wasn’t. The pathologist’s report was crystal clear: I had cancer.
I had every treatment imaginable. I underwent a modified radical mastectomy, endured 6 months of chemotherapy, 33 sessions of radiation and 5 years of hormonal therapy.
At 26 and with barely enough time to open our wedding gifts, I was a Stage 3 cancer patient. It was an aggressive form and had traveled well beyond my breast and spread to my lymph nodes. If there was a moment to remove those glasses it was just about then.
When you are first told you have cancer your mind goes on overdrive. Will my hair fall off? Will I ever have children? Will my life ever go back to normal? Will I die? There are also many things that carry you through. Prayer and an unwaivering faith. Family and friends who come together and who know just the right things to say and do. Cancer survivors who understand and who tell you they know how you feel and help you take both tiny steps and large strides towards recovery.
You also learn the importance of handling cancer on your own terms. In most books cancer is an enemy and your life is suddenly a war zone. You are expected to fight, to battle it, to beat it. A gem of a book, “How to Have Cancer Without Going to War,” came my way that changed my entire perspective. I learned to welcome cancer, to embrace it. I learned to accept it.
It wasn’t necessarily an enemy. It is and will always be part of who I am. I understood I needed to know all I could to get to know it better. Today, it still reminds me of my own mortality. On the other hand, it remains a gift that allows me those fresh eyes to determine what is trivial and what really matters.
I have always liked “taking charge” and being diagnosed did not change that. I armed myself with information. I spent countless hours on the Internet. I read every book I could. I sought out survivors. I didn’t know how to have cancer and I realized not many people did.
At that moment I made a vow. If I came out from this alive and kicking, I would change that.
Shortly after I met Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala. She had just gone through her own cancer journey and I was eager to talk to someone who understood. Together with two other survivors, we set up the ICanServe Foundation.
We each had different experiences but one common goal: that no breast cancer survivor should ever feel alone, ashamed or in the dark. Today the 13-year-old foundation promotes early breast cancer detection via high impact information campaigns and community-based screening programs. We provide hope and help to those on their own journeys to healing. We strongly believe that early detection saves lives. We recognize that empowering women with information is vital.
A few years after diagnosis I developed a complication from my treatment that cost me my ovary. If there was still a chance of me ever having a child I knew at that moment that it was slim to nil.
Yet 6 years after my cancer diagnosis and just after I had completed my final treatment, I received the biggest, happiest surprise of all.
An ultrasound showed I was pregnant with not just one child but two. With a single breast, a single ovary and the odds stacked heavily against me, twin miracles arrived safely in my arms. Today I have 7-year old boys by my side. They are living proof that miracles can and do happen every day.
My glasses aren’t as rosy as those I wore a decade ago. They’re crystal clear on some days, blurry on others. There is also a pink tint on most days that reminds me there is more work to be done, more women to help. I like my new view. I really do. – Rappler.com
To know more about ICanServe Foundation and the work that we do visit www.icanservefoundation.org