According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of recovery is “to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.”
My cancer journey began on July 15, 2011. With my husband and my daughter holding my hands, I listened as my doctor said “Karen, your tests have revealed that you have cancer.” I tuned out and cried while my family carefully gathered all of the needed information for the next steps of my treatment.
In early August I went through a hysterectomy which the doctors had assured would likely take care of the cancer. Upon awakening from surgery, the doctor greeted me in my hospital room where he shared the devastating news that cancer was discovered in multiple lymph nodes. Removal of the lymph nodes would have likely caused the cancer to spread further. The only treatment available for my stage 4 cancer was chemotherapy (chemo) and radiation. After a recovery period of six weeks, my treatment began. Daily trips to the radiation lab and weekly chemo infusion, one of the hardest times of my life, yet there was positivity in this journey. The radiation treatments left me tired, and the chemo robbed me of feeling well for four to five days after every treatment. The weight fell off and I was weak. Much of my time was spent looking for hope and praying that I would be given more time with the people I love so very much, my family. During the time of my eight weeks of treatment, my daughter announced that she was expecting our second grandchild in May. I couldn’t believe how my emotions would change from complete elation to utter despair when I thought about my grandchild’s arrival. It was the turning point for my recovery. I chose to be positive that I would hold this little one in my arms. The fight was on! One joyful moment led to another, and it changed my entire outlook. I was determined that this disease was not going to end me. I had people to meet, places to go, and things to do! I decided to be the strongest warrior ever!
The treatment was rough, but I endured. On December 9, 2011, I received the news that I was cancer-free..I did it…I had beat the odds. On May 28, 2012 my grandson, Finn, was born.
Back to the definition of recovery. My health has recovered, my body is strong, but my mind has never recovered. It has never returned to its previous state, and I hope it never does. I now take the time to slow down, enjoy the beauty of the world around me. I treasure the laughter of my grandchildren, date nights with my husband, the time I have been given with my family, and the simple joys of day-to-day life. And I have a new best friend, his name is Finn. My strength did not recover to its pre-cancer level. I am now stronger than ever before, and ready for what comes my way. Things that may have seemed difficult prior to my cancer battle, now seem easier to manage. If I can beat cancer, I can do anything. Life is good and I am at peace.
My advice – do not miss your annual check-ups for any reason. They are more important than anything that may try to get in their way.