This is a new and interesting topic for me, as I am usually ashamed to discuss my body issues with people. Being only 4 feet, eleven inches short, I was always heckled in school. I have heard so many comments about my height that I am used to it now. I used to ask myself why I wasn’t taller, why I was so short, and why I couldn’t grow up. But the answers never came.
My late mom always wanted tall grandchildren. I guess she hinted to me to look for a tall partner but that didn’t happen either. Boy, was I cursed. I hated my life as a teenager. It was filled with so many problems. My parents sent me to multiple therapists but only one stood out to me. He told me that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was just going through a normal teenage phase of depression. He also said that it would pass, but I never believed him.
I guess I never had many friends as a teenager. They always laughed at my clothes, hair, and makeup. Gosh, a girl can get a real breakout here these days. Up to this present day, there is still mounting pressure on how women dress, look, and cook. Why, people, why? I just want to live a normal, happy life.
But my life was far from average. At 18, I lost my mom to ovarian cancer. I still miss her up to this day, but time heals all. It was only a few years ago that I actually stopped crying on Mother’s Day. It was always a horrible day for me. I remember caring for her—that was not an easy task. I had to be strong at such a young age in my life. It was unfair.
I knew there was a possibility that I might get cancer, but I always thought that it would have missed me. Boy, was I wrong again. At age 33, you guessed it. I was diagnosed with stage 1 triple-negative breast cancer. All these fancy big words were thrown at me, which I knew nothing about. I had to research everything online. All my medical reports, my diagnosis, my surgery and treatment options. This was a whole new medical world for me.
I felt as though my life as I knew it was over. I was too young to die. I had to break the news to my dad over the phone, which was scary. Although I was the one diagnosed, my family felt it more than me. I cried for days, so confused and lost. I wish I could go back in time and remove those memories, but it is part of my life now—hopefully my past and not my future. My friends were terrified—I think I had more faith than they did, but I held on to hope.
I opted for a lumpectomy, but looking back at it now, I should have had a double mastectomy. It was stressful all around. I wished everything was just a bad dream. I kept praying that I would wake up one day and laugh about it, but that day never came. Before my surgery, it was suggested that I attend a pre-surgery counseling session, which I did. It went well, so I thought that I was fully prepared. For the day of my surgery, I changed into a hospital gown and lay on the bed awaiting my turn.
I seemed okay as my cousin left and wished me well. As I lay on the bed, the attendant came and wheeled me into the room. As I looked up at the ceiling lights, it was like a scene from a movie. When I was left alone, all the feelings hit me at once. I felt scared, alone, and sad. I started to feel the anxiety kick in. I began to breathe really hard and then started to cry. The attendant wheeled me into the operating room, where I saw all these young doctors staring at me.
I asked myself if they were secretly laughing at me or if they felt sorry for me. Everyone was silent. I still cried but I couldn’t stop. My stress was increasing, so I knew I had to calm myself down in order to have the surgery performed. But guess what folks, do you believe in mysterious things? Strange enough, I saw a light at the entrance door, so I froze. I don’t think anyone else saw that light because everyone was wondering what I was staring at.
The “light” then moved from the door all the way up to the ceiling. I followed it all the way as it kept me calm. Slowly but surely, I then started to relax and breathe normally. I took a deep breath and allowed the medication to kick in. I said a prayer and hoped for the best. I woke up a few hours later on the hospital bed. I was scared and nervous, but a nurse told me that everything went well. I was happy. Shortly after being wheeled to the ward, I was in a lot of pain. I began to cry, as I usually cry about everything.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I guess I was too scared. I never had surgery before, so I never understood what people go through. While I am glad that my surgery went well, I had recovery ahead of me. It was a painful journey. I had to keep the bandage on my right breast for a while. I honestly cannot remember much, as I had my surgery in December 2018. That year Christmas was totally different for me.
I had to rest. Not being able to fend for myself took an emotional toll on me. I felt defenseless. Because I was unable to move my right hand for a while, I didn’t want to drive or take any chances. I saw the holidays as a real celebration of life after that. With regards to cancer having impacted my body, I did lose a part of my breast. At first, I thought that I was deformed or scarred, especially when I looked at both of my breasts in the mirror. One was different from the other.
Over time, I have learned to accept what my body looks like now. I had to have eight rounds of chemo, and I lost all my hair on the first night of chemotherapy. I had to watch my head and looks fall apart. I no longer felt beautiful. I experienced heartache, but soon after I learned that beauty is only skin deep. I am still the same person. I just have to see myself in a different light now. I wished things were different, but they were not.
Over the years, I have had to adjust to life, so I now admire all the strong and brave people out there. I read other cancer survivor stories and I get hope and encouragement. I can’t thank Elephants and Tea enough, for all that they have done to support me during my cancer journey. Writing has given me a window to express myself without judgment, as I know that there are other people out there who may feel the same way I do. I love you all and thank you for loving me too and just letting me be me!