About that amazing quilt, and my cancer recovery—thank you
Some of you know about my cancer journey and have responded so kindly. My goal with this last bit of good news is to hopefully, once again, bring more breast cancer awareness.
After being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in August 2017, I opted to defer surgery for a bit, for personal reasons. I was urged to go on Letrozole, a hormone inhibitor that suppresses the estrogen, which my type of cancer feeds on. Turns out I was on it for more than ‘a bit’ (about 21 months thus far) and turns out it did more than suppress. The Letrozole began to tear apart my tumors and shrunk most of what was left up to 75% (one tumor could no longer be seen on the ultrasounds). But I still had cancer in my body and it needed to come out. I asked why not stay on Letrozole until it shrinks it all out and was told that there was a chance the Letrozole might lose its effectiveness and my cancer would take over. So I had a bi-lateral (double) mastectomy last month. They also put expanders in during that surgery, to stretch the skin for reconstructive surgery down the line (insurance is required by law to cover reconstructive surgery).
The day after surgery I was washing dishes (I did it, so I could brag to another wonderful survivor I know who said she did laundry the next day). I fully realize this is not the norm. I only needed to use the narcotic pain killers a day and a half and then switched to over-the-counter Tylenol the rest of the time. My recovery has been short and unexpected. I was driving within three days and doing almost everything I was doing prior to surgery—within 1-2 weeks. The post-surgery pathology report showed the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. What a relief. No, my type of cancer is not curable—it can come back. But the bright side is that I went from Stage 3 to virtually “cancer-free”—and I am swimming in gratitude on so many levels.
I’m writing this last diary about my journey because I want those who might be facing breast cancer to know it’s not a death sentence like it was in the past, recovery doesn’t have to be long and treacherous and the experience can change your life for the better.
A friend and DK staff writer, Jen Hayden, was diagnosed before me and wrote a diary urging others to get mammograms. That’s when I decided to get one, and it probably saved my life. My cancer had been growing for several years. So if you’re due for a mammogram or any other preventative testing like a colonoscopy, please, please schedule it now. Most insurance companies must cover both. If you don't have insurance (I’m sorry that’s still a thing in this country) you can get a mammogram for free or at low cost in many places.
Now, about that beautiful, beautiful quilt.
I don’t know why, but I was gifted an amazing quilt, a work of art, from the Daily Kos community soon after my initial diagnosis diary. It contains the most beautiful notes of inspiration, love and support from community members—many of who were like family, and others whom I’d never met. I cried when I received it, and I cried again after surgery, because although I felt really good, really fast, when I wrap myself in that quilt I feel warmth and love. Sounds corny but it’s true. My family loves it too. My future son-in-law loved it a little too much and I had to use the surgery ‘card’ more than once to get it back.
Thing is—this quilt wasn’t from staff, though many staff members so lovingly signed and contributed, it was from the people who built Daily Kos and who keep it alive—the Daily Kos community. What newsgroup does something this?
So for me to just say, “Thank you so much for the quilt,” I would be understating my gratefulness. You guys let me know early on that I wasn’t alone and wouldn’t be alone on my journey. I will never forget (they say never say “never”) I will NEVER forget the incredible detail and love, that went into making the quilt and the love that came from those who contributed to having it made. You’ve helped me more than you could ever know.
I have five weeks of daily radiation ahead which look to be more annoying than anything. The whole hour I’ll be there each day will only contain five actual minutes of radiation, which might feel like a sunburn and/or might make me tired (but I have a quilt for that, so...). No chemo, since my body has responded so well to the Letrozole, which I’ll stay on for 5-10 years. I’ll have to wait for reconstructive surgery (about six months to a year) but that’s okay. They put saline in my expanders, maybe even a little more than I would have asked for (if I’d been asked) but I’m having fun with the new temporary look. I’ve always been on the smaller side, so the attention is amusing (my eyes are up here). I write these things with a touch of humor to inform others of what may come on their journey. Either way, laughter is a must. And if laughter truly heals, then the show, Schitt’s Creek, is responsible for my healing. “OMG, Ewa, David!” Fun aside, my cancer team is awesome, as is a higher power I choose to call God.
I am still striving to live life to its fullest. And though none of us know what tomorrow will bring, I now know I can make every day count. I know I can love more, forgive more and be more of the person I’ve always wanted to be. It’s one f the gifts that come with this terrible disease.
My heart will always go out to those who don’t have the same treatment options I had and to the loved ones who of those who are not with us anymore because of this terrible disease. I also don’t believe anyone “loses a battle with cancer.” There are only heroes who live and lived with it.
This will probably be the last time I write about my own journey. Thank you for caring, for all the prayers, the healing wishes and for my amazing and healing community quilt.
I love you guys so much.
Please note: I’ve just been informed that the Daily Kos members Sara and Ann, who make the community quilts, are in a financial bind as the result of severe health issues. They share a home and may lose it. Here are some ways folks can help out:
- Here is a direct link to the Gofundme for the sisters, which gives the background.
- PayPal link for general donations to the Community Quilt Project
- The sisters also sell Pootie Pads through the Pootie Pad website.
Thank you for the info and links, Kluger2 and Angela Marx.