Like many women, I was caught off guard with my breast cancer diagnosis. I had my annual checkup in November 2015 and the mammogram came back with calcifications on the right side. I discovered that 80% of the time they are benign. Surely I was within that percentage. The second set of x-rays didn’t clarify if cancer was lurking, so a biopsy was ordered.
I tell people now I won the “booby” prize because, sure enough, I was in the 20%. Two days after my cancer diagnosis was confirmed, I hosted an engagement party for 50 people in honor of my son and his bride-to-be. The following day I flew to Orlando to help my daughter move back to Atlanta. I had a full life. I was busy. I was in what I call the cancer fugue. It’s the surreal time where you heard the diagnosis but you want to delay really acknowledging it just a little longer. Ten days later, I woke up in the morning and said. “Ok Carmen. How in the world are you going to handle this?”
There is no handbook for “handling” a cancer diagnosis. No tried and true way to handle this process physically, emotionally or spiritually. It is very much a process. At some point you realize, you are a statistic of one. It’s your body and your life and your choices. No one knows how your body will handle treatment, how you will handle the many emotions and how well your body will fight a reoccurrence. I determined early on that this was not a journey – at least none that I would choose. This was the beginning of the rest of my life; the moment to start doing everything in my power to help my body heal. I wanted to do more than survive. I wanted to thrive with this diagnosis. I began collecting and researching resources. It was my full-time job. It was my life on the line.
I had the lumpectomy in early March and it was during the subsequent radiation that I started physical therapy with TurningPoint. My initial thought was to help reduce the scarring from surgery. But I learned that radiation can cause cording and reduce your range of motion. I felt a constriction across my chest and my arm and back. So the therapy and the massage helped keep my muscles working and reduced the surgery scarring. I also learned patience from Grayson and Jyoti to just let my body heal. This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. There’s no need to push your body. Just keep it moving! There is a strong gentleness to the way things are done at TurningPoint which is very soothing. The therapists meet you where you are and move you forward. And you learn the exercises that you will use for the rest of your life. Again, you are taking actions to help your body through the healing process.
At the end of August, I set off by myself on a four-week road trip out west. It became an unexpected opportunity to meet wonderful people and reconnect with family. It was my road to a tremendous emotional and spiritual healing experience. I can do this cancer thing. I can live my life my way. I am thriving. So can you. No Rules!