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Bittersweet Memories

Claire DiCenzo is a breast cancer survivor of four years.  She was diagnosed at the early age of 29 and finished treatment right after her 30th birthday. In those short six months, she learned more about herself and life than she could have ever imagined.  Claire is a kindergarten teacher in Connecticut and has been teaching for 10 years.  She loves each day with her students, as they shed new and exciting light with their perspective on the world.  It was important to her to continue working throughout her treatment.  She knew before being diagnosed that “Everything happened for a reason,” but now even more than ever she knows that that statement is her mindset to live by.

Dr. B and I talked about how I basically have every side effect possible, but we discussed how to manage them.

He gave me an antibiotic for my pimply teenage face and some other remedies for some other side effects. He told me the next time I see him will be for chemo infusion No. 2, which was Sept. 4, 2014.

The rest of the day, I went to school and got more stuff ready in my classroom. I got to see other colleagues and catch up with them which was nice!

On my way home, I stopped to get a smoothie at McDonald’s (another good treat that I was craving and I could actually taste! Pineapple mango is my favorite!) and the girl at the window where I paid asked me if I liked my hair this short.

Well, never being one to hold anything back I told her that honestly, no I do not like my hair like this. She looked confused and asked why I cut it then. People ask too many questions! I told her I might be losing my hair soon and her face dropped. She was probably an awkward 18-year-old making conversation and then she asked if I had cancer. I told her yes and that I have breast cancer and she looked surprised and horrified then wished me well.

Awkward moments: I just wanted a smoothie to help with my chemo dry mouth! I can’t talk, it feels like sandpaper.


Written on December 26, 2014 (during my radiation time period of my treatment)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting lately. I always do, especially near the

holidays, but of course this year is different. My thoughts, feelings, and emotions are

magnified. Magnified by cancer. Magnified by love and support. Magnified by life.

To start off, today was Day 26 (I believe) of radiation. My perky bit is dark brown and

cooked. It hurts and is sensitive to the touch or a slight hug. I’m fearful of hugs, kids

running up to me, or playful dogs jumping on my chest. My skin is very toasted and dry,

and is starting to resemble leather. Dried and weathered. Aquafor ointment has become

a necessity and oh my-I cannot wait to shave my right armpit. It’s getting scary

underneath there!

Today, I was marked up like a freaking cheap Christmas wreath. I have red Sharpie and

green paint-like marker drawn in a circle around my scar and nipple. This was done on

purpose and shows the radiation therapists (that’s the correct title, not techs) where to

aim my last week and a half of radiation treatment. Instead of my whole perky bit

toasting, just the scar and nipple get baked. Wonderful. Almost done!

Here’s the part that I am most excited for…these next two weeks (and last two weeks of

2014) are the most bittersweet weeks of my life. I am beyond excited to spend those

two weeks with the people that mean the most to me: my closest family and friends.

Both my brother and sister are coming home for Christmas. This is the best Christmas

present I truly have ever received.

They both were living here in CT when I first got diagnosed in June. As excited as I was

for them to move out in the summer, I also had a huge sense of relief. I didn’t want them

here and didn’t want to have them watch me go through all this. I wanted them enjoying

life in their new homes and wanted to see them happy.

Now, they are coming home at the very end of my crazy breast cancer ride. I do not

believe this is a coincidence. I feel that somehow, somewhere someone is making this

happen for me and for them.

I know they are providing my siblings with the comfort of seeing me end my cancer

treatment. So, things have completed a full circle. They were here for the beginning and

for the end. At every end, there is some new beginning. I welcome 2015.

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