Cancer knocked me down five and a half years ago but it did not define me, it changed me.  I fully believe that you cannot go through such an event without coming away different.  I call it my walk towards healing.  I am healed, but I feel a strong desire to help others to begin their own personal walk when the diagnosis of cancer slaps you in the face.       

Being an advocate, I have learned to listen because we all have our own way of coping. For many it is too personal and so the door closes and in this case you have to respect the wishes of that person.  There are other ways to help … a phone call, a card, a nice dinner.         

For many women, the despair takes over and that is OK.  For me, it lasted two weeks and then I dug in allowing myself to take each day one at a time.  There are no tomorrow’s when you are going through treatment for cancer.         

I did make some changes though and I try and instill in others the need to take care of yourself and also that one person that is your rock.  In my case it was my husband.  Together, we knew that I was in the fight for my life and my body needed proper nourishment so we started eating lean meats and vegetables.  I gave up all chocolates, all sweets as cancer loves sugar.  I also decided that alcohol was a big no no and so water and more water became my drink of choice.        

I remember getting a call from a friend of mine who was trying to help her sister as she battled cancer.  She told me she will not get off the couch.  I told her she will never have any good days if she doesn’t.  After each chemo treatment it is important to help your body flush out the toxins by drinking water and staying active.   

The hardest thing for me was to try and take a two mile walk every couple of days.  With each treatment those walks seem to take forever.     

My therapy during this time was my photography projects.  As my husband says when in doubt, he knew where to find me, in my ”hiddie” hole in my office in front of the computer. I even had a couple of art shows while in treatment so it is so important to stay busy.       

There are definitely ups and downs as you scare yourself when you look in the mirror and you notice that other people run when they see you.  I guess they think cancer is contagious.  Stay positive and avoid mirrors… your hair, your eyelashes and in my case, your finger nails and toe nails will grow back.  The best part was I got a chemical peel for my skin and all my age spots disappeared.    

There are angels that walk among us.  They are the family and friends that show up.  Surround yourself with those that with loving voices bring light into your world. Not one time did I feel alone.      

The doctors do not tell you the side effects from treatment as some lucky ones breeze through it.  I had to go through cancer to find out what it felt like to be nauseous.  Ginger was my remedy.  Rashes started showing up with six weeks left in my chemo treatment along with neuropathy.  We are all different so sometimes you just have to dig deeper and hold on to your faith and that big guy that never once left my side.       

Do not be afraid to reach out to others.  Each hospital has so many programs that can help from dietitians to advocacy programs to financial aid.  It is the unknown that is scary so take advantage of all the freebie’s.  I found so many people willing to help.  The nurse at my oncologist’s office was full of information as she shared them with me in emails. The best advice she gave me was to stay off the internet and get your mammogram’s!       

One organization that was such a benefit while in treatment was Cleaning for a Reason .They come and clean the homes of women going through cancer.  There is no better feeling than coming home after a day of treatment to the scent of freshness and scrubbed floors.  (Also check out the podcast with Cleaning for a Reason Founder).      

For one year and one month I was in treatment.  This included chemo, a mastectomy, radiation, more infusions, and finally for Christmas I got new nipples.  My milestone was reaching the five year mark knowing I am cancer free!       

Each day I continue my walk towards healing.  With hope, I strive for a better tomorrow for all women battling cancer.