Seventeen years–that is how long it has been since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember the emotional rollercoaster.  Suddenly, death was no longer something I would have to prepare for someday when I get old, but a part of my everyday thoughts.  I was in my early thirties with a two-year-old son, five-year-old daughter, and loving husband.  I remember worrying that my children would not remember anything about their mom; so my solution to this was to keep a journal.  In my journal, I wrote about what my children were like while growing up, the fun things we did together, my own prayers and feelings, as well as everyday experiences.  I began the journal for the children, but soon learned it was my therapy.

Pamela talks about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
Pamela talks about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment

After the surgery, I had almost six months of chemotherapy.  I remember my physician asking on more than one occasion if I wanted breast reconstruction surgery, and I always responded “no.”  After all, who could possibly be concerned about a missing breast when the bigger question was about life itself.

As months turned into years, physical and emotional healing came, and I appreciated life in an even bigger way.  At first, the peace came intermittently, until one day I realized the hurt was gone.  I also learned o live with only one breast.  I remember joking with a friend that my son was going to be pleasantly surprised one day to discover that women actually came with two, because he had grown up seeing me and thought one breast was the norm.

The experience with breast cancer became only one chapter in my story.  Nine years after my cancer diagnosis, my children and I had to deal with the loss of my husband to lung cancer.  This was yet another challenge.  However, my family had already collected and still continues to collect many happy memories.  My children provide a constant source of love, joy, and support.  I not only have seen both of them graduate from high school, but one has completed college.

My focus for so long has been on raising m children, but now that the task is completing, I can think more about myself.  To begin this next chapter, I decided to finally have breast reconstruction surgery. This was the right time for me and I am very pleased with my new body.

I have collected some lessons from my experiences that have helped me along the way:

1.  Stay close to God, friends, and family.  Like everything else, these relationships require time and attention, but will prove every time to be worth the effort of keeping them strong.

2.  The best way to heal yourself is to serve others, because there is always someone experiencing more pain.

3.  A journal is not only fun, but may even keep you from making the same mistake twice.

4.  Do not go anywhere without your rollerblades in the trunk of your car, because it is important to take advantage of every opportunity for fun.

5.  There is nothing better than chocolate to top off a great meal.

I am now a seventeen year survivor. I am looking forward to the coming years, and enjoying m life.