A Moment of Truth
The doctor ushers us into the room. The moment of truth has arrived. We are greeted with the surgeon’s brisk, no-non- sense manner. I involuntarily hold my breath for a moment. Here we go.
‘Well, unfortunately, we did find something sinister. You do have breast cancer,’ a curious emphasis on the affirmative, nodding and walking around the room, pulling reading glasses from her forehead, and on to her nose, all the better to see radiological images which she throws up on the backlit screen.
The original report describes a 2-centimetre mass. The post- operative pathology report shows a 6.5-centimetre tumour. I am shocked.
‘So the bad news is we’re going have to perform another surgery. I am going to have to do a re-excision and remove more tissue so that the margins are clear. Now, I am pretty convinced that it hasn’t spread, but just to make sure, we’re going to do what’s called a sentinel node biopsy, where
we remove some of the lymph nodes, just to prove that it hasn’t, in fact, spread any further. So in a sense it’s going to be a bigger procedure, because now your arm is involved. And so there will be more recovery time required.’
From A Year of Medical Thinking by SK Reid © 2014
Breast Cancer Facts
According to WHO (World Health Organisation), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, affecting 2.1 million women every year. In 2018, 627,000 women died from breast cancer (WHO, 2019).
Did You Know
Early detection is key to improved outcomes, with 90% average survival rates for invasive disease, and as high as 99% if pre-invasive. I used to be afraid of ‘checking my boobies.’ But let me tell you. Not knowing is far scarier than knowing either way.
Check your boobies! Your life will thank you for it!
Hearing The words, ‘You Have Cancer’
Until you hear those words, “You have cancer,” you never really know how you are going to respond. In my own case, I was deeply disturbed. I think what had preceded my diagnosis influenced my reaction – the recent loss of my precious IVF baby who was due on the anniversary of my late husband’s death had made me vulnerable. Interestingly, some of my friends had been dismissive of my concerns, one even sending me some medical report about how the best treatment for pre-invasive disease was no treatment. To this day I still think this is ironic. The article she sent made no reference to the distinction between the different grades of pre-invasive disease, nor to the size of the tumour. She completely missed the fact that the path investigation found invasive disease – yes, thankfully that part of the tumour was small in comparison to the rest of it, but my high-grade menacing shadow had become invasive.
Listening with Empathy
I often reflect on that exchange. It demonstrates how not listening to one another can be fertile ground for misunderstanding. She herself had some signs of abnormal cells on a pap smear and you’d have thought the world was coming to an end! I appreciated her fear. I knew the journey. But her lack of appreciation of mine was curious to say the least.
Nevertheless, it speaks to the idiosyncratic ways we humans respond to things in our lives. Whereas my response was fearful, a family member is currently having treatment for cancer and his attitude is incredibly optimistic and upbeat. I am literally in awe of his outlook, and his approach to life. He is extraordinary.
Responding to Life Challenges
Responses to life stressors, especially potentially life-threatening diagnoses, are as varied as each individual.
This brings me to Reena. Hailing from Mauritius, Reena is a teacher, writer, and poet and she is also a sister cancer warrior with an extraordinary attitude to life. Cancer changes you. It changed Reena. What it teaches you is a level of appreciation of life that you can only find through adversity. Reena talks about cancer unleashing in her a new lease of life. Her attitude is similar to that of our family member's attitude to his disease. She has used her experience to find meaning, spirituality and purpose that perhaps she had not been aware of before her diagnosis.
Here, Reena shares her fears, her changed outlook on life, and her passion for reaching out to others since her cancer diagnosis.
In Her Own Words
I remember every second of waiting
I remember every second of waiting (to hear about the results)!
Awaiting in fear, my legs all jellied and then moment of truth, I was told I had cancer!!!
But it also gave me the power to heal. The strength which was yet unknown to me suddenly burst out.
People You Meet
I met amazing souls throughout my journey with cancer..
Scars were given to me, but I decided to not let the wounds overshadow my life.
One thought and many possibilities
A second life; a second chance to see what I have missed!
Lucky, I am.
Grateful I am, for cancer (to me) is a "re-can."
This is the time to celebrate.
I break all the silences all the taboos
Life isn't just about being alive to survive among the fittest.
I have become an evolved soul.
I rise above and shine.
My Life Lessons are the sweetest steps toward the Door to Heaven.
I found my truest self through cancer!
I have become an inspiration to many.
All I wish is to be remembered for the beautiful me.
I became the words and strength of many.
Little did I know my mission on this earth was to create magic through my words,
Discovering myself brought so much of ecstasy into my life!
The purest growth through muds yet untouched by muds!
Blooming and glowing
That's what I call Life!
One short lifespan, yet so much to live!
I couldn't be more grateful to life for giving me this chance again, to relive my life, to find my true self and to inspire thousands. I stand here today as a proud fighter, mother, wife and friend, I almost gave up, but the best people stand behind me and here I am. I proved to myself I can do it, cancer will go down history, but I believe I made cancer my history.
I say to cancer: "Yeah bitch! I beat the shit out of you!"
And today, I write for a cause.
Writing is my therapy and my hidden passion.
Having gone through the worst experience of my life; it made me realise that life is too short.
The question is, why hold back and suppress what you love most?
I write about life lessons, positive motivational thoughts and quotes.
I write to keep the light of faith glowing.
I only want to spread positive thoughts and beliefs in the lives of many.
I believe in acceptance and magic. I trust miracles.
My courage is my strength.
And my strength is my thought process.
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Connect with Reena on Insta @meereen_warrior