Shay Moraga was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the beginning of 2016 and shares her journey with Desert Health® readers in this ongoing column.
We have a lot of concessions, but some of the biggest ones we have are keeping the fear and anxiety away when the world seems to be turning upside down and we see lives being cut short by senseless acts. That trauma rushes back because you know mortality. You have been in a life-and-death situation and you understand the depth of life. You understand that everything can change in an instant.
As a cancer patient, you try hard to live your life again like you “used” to. You slowly learn to live with anxiety but it gets the best of you at times especially when things in this world don’t seem right. It is like PTSD, I would assume. All of the sudden it just hits you. No one understands. Family and friends look at you and think everything looks great; nothing is wrong. On the inside, however, it is different; it is the one thing that we cannot explain to a non-cancer patient.
You see, a few weeks ago I went in for my “routine” port flush and blood work. Everything was great; I felt fine. In fact, I have had perfect bloodwork all along. It was just another routine bloodwork day. If you don’t hear back they say, “See you in another 6 weeks.” Great, right? Until you get “that” call, and I did.
It went something like this…“Hi, Shay, how are you? Now, I don’t want to scare you, but your bloodwork didn’t come back as we expected. In May the tests were normal and now it seems your liver enzymes have gone up quite a bit. Have you been doing anything different lately? Taking supplements? Aspirin? Alcohol?” You immediately think back what you have been doing before tests were run. I respond by, “Yes. I mean come on; I am trying to get my life back to normal.” In a panic, I blurt, “I had one glass of wine. I took some supplements. I maybe had two Advil for some pain in my knee.” “Ok, well let’s stop doing all that for at least 2 weeks. If we retest and it is not better, then we will do a scan.”
As the fear starts to set in, I immediately think, ‘scan to see if something is back.’ Then the voice says, “But don’t get scared.” As I think to myself, the moment the phone rang, a little fear set back in. The realization sinks in even deeper that my life will never be ‘back to normal’ and I have to figure out how to live with the unknown all over again. That is a scary feeling no matter what you say or do until you have the answers you need.
For two weeks, I did everything they said to do. I cut all supplements and alcohol out of my diet. I kept myself busy, I went to my support group, I reached out to close friends, and I went to yoga and meditation – until the day came when I had to retest. With it came the swirl of emotions that had been bottled up inside: the fear of being in the chemo room once again. However, this time something a very wise woman said to me came to mind, “What is the alternative? To die or to fight again?” I already knew my answer.
After taking my blood tests, the two-hour wait for results was over. I no longer had to be scared. My liver enzymes went down to an almost normal state. My lesson? Listen to my doctors; they know best. My liver and kidneys still are healing. I am not back to normal yet and maybe never will be. Even though I look fine on the outside, I am still healing on the inside physically and emotionally.
Anything can trigger us. Life is very precious and we must remember in times like these that your life can change in an instant. Remember, Life Is A Gift.
To view previous columns, visit DesertHealthNews.com and search ‘Shay.’ Shay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.