I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast disease right around the time my husband and I decided to try for a baby. When the doctor gave the diagnosis, he was panicked. He wanted to rush me into surgery immediately, and follow up with chemo and radiation.
I told him to hold his horses. I needed time to process and think.
The doctor gave me 6 months to live. That was 17 years ago.
I think one reason I’ve survived so long is that I honor my own needs. At least when it comes to the important stuff.
I can be stubborn, and that can be a good thing when you’re fighting for your life. Which I am doing once again.
4 years ago the cancer came back, this time as a ductal carcinoma. So I had a mastectomy. Unfortunately, my husband chose that time to leave. But, looking back, I think it was better for me in the long term. Short term it really sucked.
However, I have an amazing support network, which I have needed the last few months.
You see, I was diagnosed with brain cancer in April. I had surgery to remove a lemon sized tumor at the end of that month. Then I had radiation to the brain because there were a few “hot spots” they wanted to take care of.
I was freaked out because I didn’t want to lose brain function.
Thankfully I have not become a drooling idiot. I can still walk, talk and feed myself. I cook, I read, I am writing article. But sometimes I can’t remember a word that should come easily to me. Reading for too long wears me out. I can no longer do math in my head the way I used to.
Some of this is just due to the cancer.
Cancer wears you out. You see, I didn’t just have cancer in my brain, I also had it in my lungs.
Since the surgery, I’ve been going in every week to have blood tests run. They also did a CT scan last week. Turns out the cancer has spread to my heart. It’s impinging on my vena cava. This is dangerous. The oncologist and radiologist want to rush me into treatment.
My options? Heart surgery or radiation.
Another complication — I now also have lymphedema.
I knew this was a possibility after the mastectomy, so I did everything possible to avoid it. However, during the recovery period after my surgery, I was not active the way I normally am. Exercise keeps lymph flowing, preventing lymphedema.
Additionally, they kept drawing blood and I didn’t realize they couldn’t draw from that side of my body.
So now I am doing what I can to alleviate the symptoms of lymphedema. There is no cure, but exercise, massage and compression garments help.
One problem, though, is the money.
I have insurance, but it doesn’t cover many of the treatments I need for the lymphedema and the surgery and radiation were only covered 80%. That 20% added up.
Money is tight right now because I can’t work a proper job with the physical issues I’m dealing with. Therefore, I’ve set up a gofundme. For those who feel inclined to help out, here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/manage/r5prx-supporting-shefali
I am trying to stay strong through all of this.
I have an elderly mother I am taking care of, though, since the cancer came back, I’ve been amazed at how she’s stepped up to the plate to also care for me.
I have a dog that I love but I can’t care for him right now, and I miss him terribly, but I do see him at least once a week for several hours. I saw him today and he cuddled with me, something he never used to do so much. He misses me.
I have amazing, supportive friends. And, aside from the cancer, I haven’t been sick in years…
I guess I have a lot to be grateful for. But the cancer makes it really hard. Once again, I’ve been told I only have a few months to live. I am hoping to beat the odds.
Thanks for reading.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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