A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. My diagnosis went from zero to worst case scenario in the span of two weeks. After multiple scans, tests, and biopsies, results showed that my cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes, spine and femur.
[quote_right]Everything Gilda’s offers is free for the patients, the families, the friends, the caretakers and the survivors. How much you make should not dictate whether you have resources available to you. Gilda’s Club understands that.[/quote_right]My case was weirdly advanced, but like all cancers the roots of it were basic; one cell – one tiny cell – revolted. My body betrayed me. In the last year I have been through 5 months of chemotherapy, breast surgery, 6 weeks of radiation, and will have maintenance treatment every 3 weeks for the rest of my life.
When I was diagnosed, one thing I knew was that I was going to need help. I needed a community that understood what I was going through. I needed a place that spoke the same language and offered a short hand when communicating with people. I needed to talk freely and not feel judged or have to justify what I was feeling and why. I have negotiated every emotion from sadness, to fear, to anger and my feelings have manifested in ways I’ve never experienced. Cancer is a physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting fight. It challenges everything you know about yourself. It’s the most present and raw I have ever been.
Gilda’s Club is a part of who I am as a cancer patient and survivor. My Tuesday night group has become my sounding board, my medical dictionary, my friends, and my biggest champions. They don’t ask for anything other than just being there. With them, I’m able to voice how I’m feeling or just be silent and listen. They are my Gilda’s family.
Being asked to share my story allows me to be an advocate for those who need a place like Gilda’s Club for support. Everything Gilda’s offers is free for the patients, the families, the friends, the caretakers and the survivors. How much you make should not dictate whether you have resources available to you. Gilda’s Club understands that.
I’m now in remission and as cured as an incurable cancer can be. However, I am exhausted, emotional, frustrated, grateful, overwhelmed, and did I say exhausted? Yet, I’m happier in my life than I have ever been because of cancer and see the world through a different prism.
Cancer might make the rules, but it doesn’t get to rule. While I have no control over the who, why, and how of my advanced cancer, I do have control over how I get up every morning. I have control over how I treat people and how I treat myself. I have control over being an advocate for those who are too tired to be able to verbalize their needs. Cancer has allowed me to have more control over my story and Gilda’s is an anchor in that story.