How Do You Tell People That You Have Cancer?

Telling people that are close to me that I was diagnosed with breast cancer was a very personal and difficult decision. I am sure you are thinking that I am crazy for saying that and I would have agreed with you when I was first diagnosed, but I don’t agree now. Why wouldn’t a patient want to tell their family and friends? Or, what would make a cancer patient regret telling them? It will probably surprise you to know that I have spoken with some cancer patients that didn’t tell anyone, or that after the fact, they had wished that they hadn’t.

Family members, friends, and co-workers are never comfortable hearing that someone they know and care about has received a breast cancer diagnosis. It is a hard subject to discuss and every cancer patient knows that to some degree once they start telling people that they have cancer, the flood gates open with questions and in some cases blame. It is sad but true that sometimes out of fear, people are ignorant enough to ask a cancer patient what they “did or didn’t do to get cancer”. I can tell you that I was blaming myself early on. I was sure that it was my fault, that I had done something wrong and that is why I ended up with breast cancer. I know now that it was ignorant of me to blame myself. I didn’t do anything to cause my cancer, cancer chose me.

Sometimes people stay away because it is easy for them to assume that since someone they know was terribly sick during chemo, that you will be too; or someone they know did not survive breast cancer, so you won’t either. Understandably, they are afraid to be close to you because they think that you will die and it will hurt more if they step into the reality of your cancer so if they don’t talk to you, it isn’t real. I have found myself reminding people that I am still me, that every breast cancer patient’s experiences and outcomes are different, even if they have the exact same diagnosis. So many factors go into how a patient will respond to chemo and radiation treatments as well as undergoing multiple surgeries like most of us do, so it is impossible to predict what will happen. I am happy to say that I am doing well now that I am well over a year out from my diagnosis…I am a survivor!

I didn’t tell anyone right away because my husband and I were in shock and we needed to process what was going on. I also had my first biopsy to go through and I wanted to have the specifics of my breast cancer before sharing the information with anyone. Just a few weeks later once all of the test results were back, I told my family and close friends first through phone calls and private messages. As the news spread of my diagnosis, some people reached out to me immediately and others often times the people I wanted to talk to the most, stayed away from me, not knowing what to say. I can’t blame people for distancing themselves because I understand how hard it is to hear about the pain, endless doctors’ appointments, and everything else that I had to endure both physically and mentally for months on end. I also understand that people think that they would be bothering me or burdening me if they wanted to talk about things that they are going through, but if that is what they are thinking, they couldn’t be more mistaken. Right now, especially while I am laid off from work, I need my friends and family, I need to connect with people.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer has taught me that we never know what tomorrow will bring. Putting off spending time with the people that we care about and love should not be left until tomorrow, or next week or when we think we will have time because time is not on our side. {Yes, I know that the virus we are all dealing with is not helping bring us together, face to face, but there are other ways to communicate.} Sometimes the choices we make will only bring us to feelings of regret in the future, and sometimes it is too late to go back to the cherished moments we should have had with those that we love and value.

2nd Dermatologist Appointment

Mood: Grateful 🙂

On April 1st I had my 2nd appointment with my dermatologist. About 2 weeks prior to my appointment, I received a call from his office saying that they had to cancel my appointment due to Coronavirus and that they would call me back when they reopened to reschedule me. I received a call to reschedule a few days later and I was surprised that his office had reopened so quickly, and that they were able to reschedule me only one week after my original appointment.

When I arrived at my appointment I asked the nurse about the office closure and she said that someone on staff had symptoms and tested positive. She assured me that the office was safe as they took the time to disinfect everything so they could get back to seeing their patients as soon as possible.

My treatment went well and was quick as it was the first time. I pointed out the dot on my right side that hadn’t responded to the first treatment so the doctor made sure to laser it more this time. A few days later, the dot started to respond so that was a great relief to me. Responding is basically having a scab develop where the area was treated with the laser, and the scab develops and then peels off a few times before it settles and heals. So, my appointments are 4 to 6 weeks apart to give me skin time to go through that process. Does it hurt to have the three dots lasered? Yes, it does hurt but the actual pain only lasts a few hours with some soreness for another day; so to me, not bad at all.

I have one more appointment scheduled for mid-May and we will see if I need to go back in for a 4th time during that appointment. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time my dermatologist is taking with me to make sure that all three dots are gone to my satisfaction and his as well; especially since he is doing this for free because I have battled breast cancer.

Dermatologist Appointment

Mood: Excited 😄

I think I mentioned a while ago that I found a dermatologist that can not only remove my radiation tattoos, but he does it for free for cancer patients. Today I went in to Atlanta to see him and have my first laser session. He immediately knew who I was when he came into the room because he held out both hands to greet me and said that it is a pleasure to be able to do this for me. He understood why I wanted the dots removed and understood about me not wanting a reminder of what I have been through with breast cancer.

I have never had a laser treatment before so I wasn’t sure of what to expect. The doctor let my husband stay in the room so that was nice for me. We were both handed glasses to protect our eyes and then he went to one machine and lasered my 3 tattoos, and then to a second machine with a different type of laser. It felt like little electric shocks and it did hurt, but not terribly. His assistant had a tube in her hand that blew cold air on me while he used the lasers so that helped a bit with the pain. My husband said he could see little specks of color lifting out from my skin….very trippy.

The areas that were treated are so small that I really don’t have any aftercare. They told me that the top skin that was lasered will scab and peel off. Once the scab is gone I will be able to see how much of the ink is gone and the doctor suspected that I will need at least one or two more treatments to have acceptable results.

I won’t go back until a month from now because the treatments, at least for me, need to be a month apart. Once I have my final results I will post some before and after pictures.