I didn’t sleep well last night. Today I will start a new segment of treatment for breast cancer, and I feel emotional about how my body, spirit, and mind will respond to treatment. I’m crying as I write this because I’m both nervous of the effects and also grateful to have access to healthcare. With that said, RACISM IS WORSE THAN CANCER. In the past few days, racism has caused me more sorrow than cancer.
When I found out I had cancer, nobody asked me what I did wrong or how bad the cancer was before showing me compassion and wanting justice in my healthcare. When someone experiences racism, there is always someone who needs to evaluate how bad the situation is before determining if the victim is “worthy” of compassion and justice.
The other day, I tried to find an old post of mine on Facebook in which I mentioned MLK. I didn’t find what I was seeking, but I found another instead. Strangely enough, this post does not mention Martin Luther King, Jr., MLK, or any variation of his name, but the powers of Facebook pulled it up for me anyway. This is a post from November 10, 2016.
If you’ve kept up with my blog in the past few months, you know I’ve been juggling many thoughts, emotions, and decisions related to these events:
Being diagnosed with breast cancer as a young adult
Going through breast cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
Mainly, I’ve been sharing what my diagnosis and what this pandemic mean for my current life. The truth is I don’t have complete clarity at this moment, but I can tell you what I am learning from this process of discernment.
When I was a kid, I grew up being pro-life. It’s not a shocker for someone who grew up in a conservative Christian family and attended Christian schools from Pre-K to 8th grade.
Although I later changed my label to pro-choice (I don’t quite remember if it happened in high school or college), my actual attitudes and beliefs toward family planning didn’t change. I had lots of compassion for women who had to figure out if they should raise their child, put their child up for adoption, or abort the child. As both a pro-life and pro-choice advocate at different times in my life, I wanted to focus on improving systems to support mothers and children. When I was a pro-lifer, I didn’t get why some pro-lifers shamed mothers in these situations without holding the fathers accountable. (I now know that the reasons are patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny.)
In retrospect, I realize that being a pro-lifer during my childhood and early teen years caused me to research adoption more. By the time I was in high school, I was determined to adopt a kid with or without a spouse when I was older.
As an adult, I had a few partners where the conversations of family planning came up. Although I was interested in having biological children, I posed the idea of adoption to my partners. Some were more receptive than others.
During my twenties, I took great offense when one of my exes said we could adopt as long as we had our “own children.” I strongly expressed to him that any child of ours—adopted or not—would be our “own children.” He was a sweet guy, but eventually I broke up with him for other important reasons not related to family planning.
Many of you know that I’m a cancer patient. I felt a lump in my breast December 10th and was diagnosed on December 19th. My life hasn’t been the same since.
I had my mastectomy on February 24th, which was the same week that the Biogen meeting screwed over Boston with COVID-19 infections. That news didn’t become public until later—after I already had been to follow-up appointments at five medical institutions with no extra precaution against the virus.
From March 11th onward, I saw different medical institutions change their protocol with intake for patients and visitors. The procedures change daily as new information arises.
I had my egg retrieval on March 19th. I was ordered to be monitored by someone for 24 hours after the procedure. I was told this took priority over any call for social distancing. Two friends took shifts in caring for me in their homes. Each had a spare room where I stayed and had next to no contact with them.
Below is a picture of my breakfast in my spare room at one friend’s house on March 20th, the day after my egg retrieval. A few hours after I ate this breakfast, I got a call from one hospital stating that I had been briefly exposed to a healthcare worker, who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Yesterday morning, I went on Facebook to post in a support group for young breast cancer patients and survivors. I got connected to this group Young Survival Coalition at the recommendation of another survivor shortly after I was diagnosed. After reading the website, I signed up for their Facebook group as soon as I realized they had one.
Since I joined the online group, I’ve mostly read other people’s stories, comments, questions, fears, and victories in their battles with breast cancer. Sometimes their fears have amplified mine, but their hopes also have given me hope when mine felt low.
As a newbie to breast cancer, I got to learn about terminology, resources, and other issues that I otherwise wouldn’t have known had I not joined that online group. More knowledge can be both disconcerting and comforting; therefore, I have to be very mindful of how I interact with the page. Overall though I find the benefits to outweigh any discomfort I feel from reading patients’ and survivors’ challenges and fears. We all need an outlet to share our unfiltered thoughts, and that forum serves that purpose.
This online support group for young breast cancer survivors is the opposite of content that I find highly annoying online, and that content is inspiration porn.
During my first few weeks of recovery from surgery, my family visited me. My sister flew in a couple days before my mastectomy and stayed for a week. She overlapped by a day with my parents, who stayed in a hotel near my home for almost a week and a half.
By the end of my parents’ last visit with me, my mom raised the topic of how people didn’t know how to talk to me. That is why some of them hadn’t said anything to me about my breast cancer diagnosis.
For context, this is an issue that came up quite a bit after I was initially diagnosed. My sister asked what she could share. A few cousins asked what they could share. Somehow other members of my extended family aren’t sure what they can or cannot say about my diagnosis to others.
Some relatives wanted to share my story with others, and other relatives were saying that they shouldn’t. I heard this from a few different sources in my family.
My mom said that some relatives told others to “just pray” for me—or at least that’s the story in this never-ending game of telephone.
I haven’t written here in two weeks. In case you were wondering why, it’s because I got a mastectomy a couple days after my last post. I’ve been adjusting and readjusting to my new body.
If you regularly meditate or do yoga, you’re likely familiar with the concept of the mind-body connection. Well, my mind-body connection is so thrown off. My mind and body are confused. This week, a social worker at my hospital told me that this feeling is normal. She said my mind and body are working to reintegrate their connection to each other.
Prior to my mastectomy, I was so scared of how I would feel when I woke up without one breast after the operation.
After my operation, I woke up with a nurse beside my bed in the recovery room. After a few minutes (or what seemed like a few minutes) of her asking me how I felt, another woman pulled open the curtain around my bed and walked in. This new woman introduced herself as a chaplain of the hospital.
“You’re Regina?” I asked. Yes, she was surprised that I knew her name. I explained that another chaplain had referred me to her and told me to expect a visit after surgery.
Regina asked how I was, and unexpectedly I had a lot to say. My throat hurt from whatever tubes the doctors had put down my throat, but I recall a lot of word vomit. Since it was my first time meeting Regina, I recounted the events of my discovering the lump in my breast, steps I took in my medical care, and the shock I was feeling post-operation. I was surprised how much I had to say. I was feeling light-headed and/or dizzy from anesthetics and medication (and continued to feel that way over the next couple days), but that didn’t stop me from being talkative. I think I was word vomiting because I needed some way of immediately processing everything.