One Year After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis – A Caregiver’s Journey Continues
#1 – You are stronger and braver than you ever imagined!
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. And while many of us are donating to charity and wearing pink everything, others are just trying to adjust to the fact that the holidays are just around the corner! As time flies and a busy time of year approaches, we think that October is the perfect Breast Cancer Awareness month because it is an opportunity to remind each other of our continual human story of family, community, and sometimes even healing. It is a chance to pause and take into account this vehicle we call our body and how important it is to take care of and appreciate for all that it does. This last June, Todd shared with us the story of his wife’s diagnosis and battle to beat breast cancer. When Someone You Love Has Cancer. Here is an update on Todd and his precious wife Cecile and how….
Next month, on November 15th, it will be one year since Cecile’s cancer diagnosis. And what a year it has been! We have learned a lot about ourselves, overcoming adversity and living under the shadow of cancer.
Chemotherapy was the toughest part for us.
Starting on November 30, 2017, Cecile had surgery to place her port and began six rounds of chemotherapy spread out over eighteen weeks. I think I can say without reservation, that Cecile will tell you it was the hardest eighteen weeks of her life. During those cold winter months when she was too ill to move off the couch, and I cared for her.
Focus on the blessings. Laugh and find joy with friends often.
We found comfort and hope in talking about and planning the rehearsal dinner for our son and daughter in law’s upcoming wedding on May 5th. During those long months we connected in a way that perhaps we never had. We reminisced about the past 33 years together and became even closer than we had been before. Cecile finished chemo in March, just in time to be able to enjoy Heather’s bachelorette party and throw a wedding shower for her. Neither of those events would have been possible without the love and help of our dear friends Sue and Destiny.
Life went on and then remission.
On May 5, 2018, Andrew and Heather became man and wife with an unforgettable and beautiful wedding weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Just 10 days later Cecile underwent a successful mastectomy on May 15th. However, a minor complication necessitated additional surgery 10 days later, but by June 1st all was well. All the pathology came back clear and she was officially cancer free. All that was left was the tissue expansion and reconstruction process.
Expect the unexpected. Then take it one minute at a time.
Just when you think life can finally calm down and get back to normal, it throws you a curve ball….or two. On June 14th, a beautiful spring day, I took advantage of my afternoon off from Excell and decided to start powerwalking to try and work off the additional insulation I had gained over the long winter. As I walked, enjoying the warm air, I stepped on uneven ground, stumbled and fell. I heard a series of “pops” as I hit the ground. When I tried to stand, my right knee wobbled like a wet noodle and I went back down. I had broken my leg just below the knee. Now, Cecile was the caregiver, as I was unable to walk without the aid of a wheelchair, walker or cane for 3 months. Nothing could keep me down though. I never missed a day of work and 2 days later Andrew and Heather threw us a surprise 55th birthday party with all of our family and friends. It was a incredible weekend we will never forget! Then came the next curveball.
On June 21st, Cecile’s 86 year old mother entered the hospital. By July 4th, we were told that there was nothing more that could be done and we should prepare for end of life. Cecile’s mother was at peace with this, but like the east coast, Italian mother that she is, she stubbornly fought back and slowly began to improve because she wanted to see her daughter through the rest of her surgeries and be well. After a 3 month stay in hospitals and rehabs, with daily visits from Cecile, who monitored her mother’s care like the nurse she is, she was discharged home on September 15, just a couple of weeks shy of her 87th birthday!
Reflecting on our story, almost a year later. I think it’s pretty amazing!
On October 5th, Cecile underwent the final reconstructive surgery and life has slowly returned to normal. We have learned so much over the past year. No matter how bleak things appear, there is always hope and God’s grace. We have learned patience, humility, and how to be cheerful when there seems to be darn little to be cheerful about.
Cecile is the real hero here. No matter what life threw at her, she rose above and conquered it. Calmly and gracefully. Well….most of the time! We are thankful this year for Cecile’s recovery and our incredible son and daughter in law, who have been by our sides throughout this incredible journey, (Thank God for Facetime!) For friends and coworkers who have been there when we needed anything from a meal to a shoulder to cry on or just a bottle of Coke. As one of Cecile’s friends commented on her Facebook post, when she went public with her diagnosis and treatment. “Stronger and braver than you ever imagined you are!!!”
Yeah, now that is a motto people going through life’s toughest moments can live by… even if you don’t see it at the time. You will.