Edye Mahaffey felt fine the day she was told she had breast cancer. It was the medicine that she had to take that made her feel and look sick. Oh, yes, and the bald head, which makes people assume that something’s wrong.
She was only 44, and although genetic tests didn’t point to a “cancer” gene, her mother and two aunts all are breast cancer survivors. So, she had an idea of what the journey might include. For her it was 6 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by double mastectomy, and more chemotherapy after. And later, immunotherapy, an IV drip that she had administered for a year.
And she worked the entire time. “It didn’t want this to hold me back. I didn’t want my kids (three sons) to see me as a sick person. I wanted a semblance or normalcy.”
Luckily, she worked at a hospital, so they understood when she had horrible days, and were accommodating with her schedule. And she had supportive and loving friends and learned how to let them be of help – picking up her son at school, making meals, swooping in and doing whatever was needed to keep her family life on a “normal” course.
Going through her cancer journey gave her and her husband an opportunity to talk more about life to her then pre-teen sons. They talked a lot about living in the moment, accepting that parts of life could be upsetting, uncomfortable and out of one’s control. “The cancer experience is hard on the family, we were all anxious about the unknown, and everyone wants to be supportive, but sometimes, there’s really nothing you can do to help.”
One side effect of the cancer treatment that impacted her physically was becoming menopausal. She had to learn to deal with hot flashes and other symptoms that none of her contemporaries were experiencing. “It’s hard to tell someone how to prepare for menopause; basically, you just deal with it.”
What cancer did do for Edye was change the way she views everything, from how green the trees are to how she treats other people. In confronting mortality, she’s had renewed insight into what is important and what is not. In many ways, she let go worrying about other people’s opinions. Still, being a cancer survivor isn’t easy. “The word survivor is really big. I know I now fit into that category. Somehow, I feel that it is almost heavier than the diagnosis.”
Yet, like most cancer survivors, she feels fortunate and grateful that she was able to get the treatment she needed. And she’s determined “I know it’s not coming back.”
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