My name is Sandy Martin and I am from coastal Alabama. At age 39, I am currently fighting breast cancer again. I was first diagnosed with DCIS and BRCA2 genetic mutation in October 2015 at age 36. I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy because (if you asked my 36-year-old self) “I never wanted to deal with breast cancer again.”
What most doctors downplay is there is always a risk. Even with a preventative double mastectomy. I am currently fighting a new Stage 3b chest wall breast cancer discovered through self check earlier this year. I am also a wife, mother of two awesome children, a business owner, a pediatric occupational therapist, a runner (well, more like walker at the current time but I’ll be back), and proponent of self-checks after mastectomy. Because breast cancer does not define me.
It’s Friday and I’m back at my cancer infusion center. I just recently finished 12 weekly rounds of taxol and started my AC treatment (which is only to be completed every three weeks) a week ago. So why am I back at the infusion center? I’m here for an unscheduled IV fluid infusion. In fact, as I slowly walked in I tried to make a joke with my chemo nurse about how I just couldn’t stand to not see her on a Friday. And promptly lost it. Full on emotional breakdown complete with ugly crying. And then broke down again on my oncologist -- in the middle of the infusion room. Sorry to those around me -- especially the person who rang the bell five minutes after my meltdown. Talk about raining on someone else’s parade!
After I pulled myself together, I texted my best friend to confess. “I’ve just snot cried to both my chemo nurses and oncologist in the last 10 minutes.” Her response was priceless and just what I needed. “Snot cried with no nose hairs?!” And then I lost it with laughter. What can I say? I like living on the edge.
Little known chemo fact outside of the cancer world -- you don’t just lose the hair on your head. You lose ALL of your hair. Including the hair lining your nose and throat. Gross, I know. I had let my friend in on the nose hair secret a few weeks earlier when I had a cold. And my nose was free-flowing like a faucet. You learn a greater appreciation for those little boogers (pun intended) that keep things in and out of your nose.
So, why the emotional meltdown? I wish I could say it’s because I was feeling so bad from my chemo treatment the previous week. While that was absolutely a part of it, it had a lot to do with the fact that I COULDN’T bounce back on my own. And I saw myself having to give up some things that I was holding onto for dear for life for a sense of normalcy. Things like actively working to see my pediatric patients. And running and vigorous exercise. These are things I held onto throughout the first 12 weekly treatments of taxol. They helped me to not feel sick. Giving them up felt like giving up a part of myself.
I needed the emotional breakdown to help me realize that I needed to give up some control for my health and ask for help. A cancer diagnosis leaves you so vulnerable in so many ways. It also leaves you to give up parts of yourself -- some things short-term and some things that you may never get back. But that is OK. And I’ll be back and better than ever with an even greater appreciation for life.
BUT, to the greater powers that be, I’M GOOD. I don’t need another reminder. Got the memo loud and clear. And until then, I’ll continue this journey with a full spectrum of emotions. And get through it all with the help of friends, family, and a little laughter.