Wow, I thought, someone really summed up my feelings about my body just after my diagnosis with Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer:
“BTW, I am really mad at you and I don’t plan to talk to you today or tomorrow.
PS, that is all day
PSS, I still love you. “
…so I continued reading the post. Then I laughed when I realized this was not a post about cancer at all. It was a letter from a young child who was annoyed at mom, sharing the feeling at that moment. A rush of memories came to me, some from my childhood, some of my own children, and all our ways of dealing with disappointment. One favorite memory was of one of my daughters at 5 years wise, standing at the front door looking defiant. She was holding her lunch box that she packed with her doll, and she announced that she was running away. I was trying not to laugh, but also was a little shocked and not prepared for this. So I drew a deep breath and slowly said, “Well, I am very sorry to hear this.” And with my heart in my throat, waited to see how she would reply. She cocked her head, and said, “Aren’t you going to drive me?”
“No, I am not going to drive you,” I said.
She made a little humph sound and when to bed. I never did know what prompted it, and all was well the next day.
“PSS, I still love you.”
I was never really mad at having cancer. Not mad at my doctors, not mad at God, not mad at anybody. That seems to surprise people. But what I didn’t tell anyone was that I was frustrated with my body. I didn’t want to talk to it, relate to it; I felt betrayed by it. I wanted to do more that run away, like my 5 year old with her lunchbox.
I wanted to peel myself out of it and leave it behind.
I was only 49 years old. I had taken care of myself, and I was in tune with myself mentality as well as physically. I didn’t think I was immune to cancer, but I did not think it could come on like an attack. Cancer was supposed to be slow, detectable, and according to all the pinking of America… curable. But the word cure was like an elephant in the room, not talked about at all in my medical appointments.
I had to work through my frustration, because I couldn’t run away from my own body. I had to love myself enough to be able to live with myself and do what I needed to do. And over the course of a year, I would repeat the feeling of not liking my body and learning to love it again.
I didn’t like my body in chemotherapy, bald as an egg, green and puffy from head to toe, but in time, I healed. Healed just enough to move to surgery. I didn’t realize just how long two 8-inch scars would look across my chest, but I healed. Healed to move into radiation. Radiation was definitely my least favorite part, but I am so grateful for my team who held my hand through it all.
My treatment has long ended, and battled and scarred, I am still here. In spite of hardships that come my way, I have peace. I can look in the mirror and say, “PSS, I still love you.”
Terry Arnold was diagnosed with IBC in her right breast in August of 2007 after months of misdiagnosis. As if an IBC triple negative diagnosis was not enough of a blow, she discovered her left breast had traditional cancer as well. In treatment for almost a year, six months of chemo, double mastectomy, and daily radiation for 6 weeks. Outside of being the best wife possible to her husband Calvin of 34 years and mother (5), mother in law, (3) and grandmother (5 and one more arriving Dec 2014), she is focused on educating every person to learn more about IBC, its symptoms, best treatment plans, and funding research. With one IBC research project funded by The IBC Network Foundation, a 501c3 she founded in August 2011, she has her sights set on funding more research by as fast can donations will allow. She looks forward to the day we can all remember than once, long ago, there was a disease called IBC that is now filed under an archive of past diseases because we have a cure. Hope always.