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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

Cancer Threads Of My Life

By Trudy Trybulski 



In 2016, I was 63 and not long retired. I noticed a change in the shape of my left breast and went to see my doctor, who quickly referred me to the hospital where I had a mammogram and biopsy. Three weeks later, it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. Tissue samples showed I had stage 3, grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer). I received the treatment that goes along with this sort of diagnosis: lumpectomy, three cycles of FEC (fluorouracil, epirubicin hydrochloride, and cyclophosphamide) chemotherapy, three cycles of docetaxel chemotherapy,  three weeks of radiotherapy, Herceptin targeted therapy, and letrozole hormone therapy. I began to walk about the hospitals like a professional cancer patient. 


Five years later, in 2021, I was diagnosed with a recurrence of the same cancer in the same breast which was also stage 3, grade 3. My oncologist recommended a left breast mastectomy, but I made a case to have a double mastectomy as I knew I would not cope very well with one large breast. I turned down chemotherapy and Herceptin, but agreed to zoledronic acid infusions and letrozole following the double mastectomy.


I have no regrets at all about the double mastectomy. I knew that mentally I would not cope well with one breast, implants, or any reconstruction. Three years post-mastectomy, I have an amazing tattoo covering my missing breasts and scars. I’d never had a tattoo before. At age 70 I am now converted and love my new upper body. It has given me confidence and joy. I designed the tattoo myself working alongside an amazing tattooist. He created something inspiring that tells a unique story about the threads of my life.


My experience with cancer has actually enhanced my life. I’ve made changes to who I live with, developing my own home into a safe peaceful sanctuary. I have surrounded myself with amazing friends and neighbors. My family supported me, but also we have developed our already strong and caring relationship, I would say with a deeper love and understanding of our importance to each other. I have left people on the wayside too, people who wanted to drain my positivity or offered me more stress.


I am currently struggling with the side effects of the drugs, particularly letrozole. It is having an effect on my joints and muscles. Constant pain is hard to live with, so it’s time to up my resistance. My plan is to get back into the gym and do more weight-bearing exercises. I want to get that feel-good factor back in my body. I’ve decided to let my hair grow, show off my tattoos, and let myself flourish—well that’s the plan, anyway! Luckily I love sports and swimming, but also chocolate and wine!


Breast cancer or any cancer doesn’t have to mean the end of a fulfilling life. Yes, it can cause difficulties and tough endings for some. I suppose it’s about making the most of what you have and who you are, and celebrating the good things in your life. I know this sounds like a cliché, but as a person affected by cancer, I feel I have the right to say it. I’ve had many say to me things like, “You could get run over by a bus,” or, “We all have to die sometime.” These statements are really not helpful, because the bus is right in front of my face. I’ve learnt to understand the fear that others have around cancer, allowing them to voice that fear to me. As I watch the rain, typing this with my wrists aching from carpal tunnel syndrome, I wonder at the beauty of it. I’m looking forward to the spring and what delights that will bring.




Read More:




On the Podcast: Breast Cancer Conversations

Building a Strong Relationship Between Patients and Their Medical Team




 


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