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The Top 3 Things That Surprised Me During Cancer

There are things that surprised me during my cancer experience including relationships, treatment side effects, and the year after I completed treatment.

My relationships

I have been very fortunate in my life. I have an incredible family and a group of friends. And try to keep in regular contact with many friends over my schooling and career. That being said I was so surprised at how people show up for you when you need them.

About 12 years before my diagnosis I worked for Tom’s of Maine, I feel like I made some really good friends there and although we don’t keep in touch on the regular I will never forget my friend Danielle. On her way to Logan Airport, she dropped off this amazing package of organic baby products (I also had just had my baby girl), pottery, toothpaste, and Weleda Skincare - it was such a touching gesture! I think about that often. I remember my cousin coming over and watching my newborn so I could sleep and I remember my husband's high school friends sending a generous gift card for us to go out to dinner. And this doesn’t include the people you expect like my high school girlfriends, college friends, and family who all showed up in big ways. On the flip side of the coin, there were a few surprises from people who didn’t show up like I might have expected but that is something I don’t have the energy to focus on.

My nails

I had no clue Taxol would ruin my nails as it did, I knew my hair was going to fall out but no one said anything about my nails. I remember coming in after my first Taxol treatment and the nurse looked at my nails. They were all bruised underneath, I chalked it up to pulling off my Shellac polish myself. She was like you should soak them in white vinegar and warm water when you get home. But she didn’t tell me why. I had no clue my nails were going to pull up from the skin, become infected, smell bad and even fall off. I was semi-prepared for my hair loss but not at all prepared for my nail loss. I remember going to the grocery store, already self-conscious wearing my head wrap and then going to pay the cashier and tucking my fingers under so she wouldn’t see my nails. I didn’t want to look like a sick person. Had I been prepared I am not sure my feelings would have changed but that side effect really affected me.

The year after

When you are told you have cancer it stings but you also have a whole team looking out for your best interests. When I was diagnosed with my cancer I also had another goal on hand, deliver a healthy baby. That was priority #1 as I was 8 months pregnant! Then I had to fight like hell. 6 months later in August when I had my surgery after chemo and had clear lines and no evidence of disease I accomplished my goal after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and was cancer-free. I then finished radiation and in November was sent back into the world.

When I look back at this time I was a lost puppy. I was happy, I was thankful, I was overjoyed but I was also lost! Trying to find the meaning for the last year. And also freaking out about every headache, hip ache or twinge in my breast. Having triple-negative breast cancer means if a reccurrence was going to happen, the first few years were held that highest probability. In that first year, I had an extra MRI, bone scan for my hips and brain MRI. My doctors always took my pain very seriously which I appreciated. Navigating this first year after cancer treatment is scary. Community, support from family and the breast cancer support groups I joined got me through it and made me feel better because I knew I was not alone!

It really takes a village, who you do lean on for support?

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