Shauna Wears Pink

I will never forget the day my doctor uttered those horrifying words “I am sorry to tell you, but that is a cancer tumor that you have in your left breast”. I was 33 years old, and my life changed forever. I invite you to read my story, learn from it and hopefully be inspired to reach out to other young women living with and beyond breast cancer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The business of surviving

Everyone warned me that the hardest part would be the weeks and months following chemotherapy, and they were right! I finished my last chemotherapy treatment on May 11th, and one would think that I would be gleeful with joy. Instead of celebrating all I could think was, “….what now?” During the long months of chemotherapy your body and mind are in battle mode. You fight through the pain every day, so when your body is no longer in any discernible pain you are not sure what to do. You let your guard down, and in many cases slip into depression. I was no exception. As I shared in my last blog entry I am opting to alter my original treatment plan to complete a mastectomy on both my breasts in lieu of radiation. My surgery is scheduled for August 10th. Even knowing that I was not completely done with my treatment plan, I still felt myself slipping into a mental fog. I could not rest easy until I knew the cancer was gone, so I insisted that my doctor order a full body PET scan. Thankfully the scan clearly showed that the chemotherapy had done its job and that I was indeed cancer-free! Again, shouldn’t I be joyous? But I am not. In my case, I felt compelled to take an inventory of my life and my body (or the remnants of it after a year of treatment for breast cancer). On the bright side my 2 year old son is happier than ever and does not even seem to notice that there was ever anything wrong with mommy. My husband, family and friends are as supportive as ever. My career seems to continue to flourish. For me the hardest part has been dealing with the current state of my mind, my body and my energy level. I used to run marathons, and now I can’t even run to the end of the block without stopping to gasp for air. I used to ride 100 mile bike rides and have energy leftover to party till the wee hours of the morning. Now, some days it takes all my energy to walk my son to the park and back. I insisted that my trainer test my muscle/fat content, and as I suspected the news was not good. Although I had maintained a fairly consistent weight throughout chemotherapy, I had lost over 10 pounds of muscle. In addition to my physical sort-comings I began having nightmares…vivid, graphic, violent nightmares. Possibly my brain processing things at a subconscious level, I don’t know? As I felt the depression creeping in I knew I had to do something. As a busy mom and partner in a law firm, I don’t have time for a pity party. I read recently that exercise is more effective at treating depression than anti-depression medications, so I tried it. I started exercising every day, no excuses. Slowly but surely I feel myself coming out of my fog. Each day I feel stronger both mentally and physically, and as an added bonus I see my muscles and body responding to the exercise in a very positive way. But by far the most important reason for me to exercise, is to prevent more breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute published a study recently indicating that strenuous exercise more than 4 hours per week can decrease a woman’s chances of breast cancer by up to 50%. I was astounded by that statistic. Exercise could have a bigger role in keeping me from getting more breast cancer than my chemotherapy. So my message to all you women out there is to start exercising! Make exercise a non-negotiable part of each day. Not only will it make you feel better, physically and emotionally, but it just might save your life!