Early symptoms and diagnosis
My name is Aphrodite. I’m a 16-year breast cancer survivor and I’m here to talk about my story of how I survived breast cancer. So, when I went to the initial diagnosis, I had found something in my left breast at the time, and I didn’t know what it was. It was in the shape of a marble. But I didn’t go to the doctor thinking it wasn’t serious. Eventually, I took myself to the breast specialist who asked me to do some tests to see if it was cancerous or not. Scans and X-rays showed that I had a nine-centimeter tumor growing in my left breast. It was breast cancer. I had a malignant tumor and they said that I need to take care of it right away because if I don’t, I will die.
Treatments underwent and side effects
The initial diagnosis showed that I had advanced stage three metastatic breast cancer. Now, metastatic means that it goes to another part of the body. They thought that it had gone to my lungs. So, I had to do six months of aggressive chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation. I went through my roundup – aggressive chemotherapy. The sun is my worst enemy.
Side effects that I had from chemotherapy were loss of scent and loss of taste. So when you try to eat food, you’re not going to taste it. Another side effect is the loss of hair. I knew that was going to happen. But I felt like a 95-year-old woman in a 35-year-old body. I was so tired and I had to have people help me around. The drugs that they used on me were so powerful. I said to myself many times I wanted to give up. I can’t go through the pain. One of the drugs backfired and was supposed to help me, but it did the reverse. So I ended up in the hospital twice. I almost had a kidney attack. After I had my mastectomy, they took out all of my lymph nodes from my left arm. I’m still numb after all these years. The tumour was completely gone. I was cancer-free.
After the treatment, they put me on a diet. I had to exercise and eat certain foods because of the lymph nodes. I was told after I got the tubes out, do not use this left arm for anything because I can get lymphedema. And lymphedema is painful. My arm can swell up and I’ll be back in the hospital. So I tried not to but it’s hard sometimes. You can eat food, but you have to limit the amount of food that you put in your body. But you also have to be active. You cannot go back to the lifestyle you had.
What helped me to recover
Again, my family got me through it. I think that I wouldn’t do this by myself, since, I don’t like doctors, hospitals or being in the hospital. Family is important. Again, you need a support system. My mother forced me to stay on this Earth. But she said to me if something happens to you and you give up, I don’t want to live. That’s what my mother said. She said to me that I need to fight like I’ve never fought before and also need to have a positive attitude. It’s all about having a positive mindset. Make yourself say that I have value on this Earth. I have a purpose in life and I have a family that I don’t want to leave behind.
Life is precious. The people in my life matter to me. I thank my late mother because if she hadn’t been there to help me through it, I wouldn’t be here. We only have one life to live. So we gotta make the best of it. Cancer can be treated. You need to go in there with a positive attitude. But you also need to have a support system, a family member, a friend. It could be anybody in your family, or it can even be again, a volunteer. You’re not alone in this. Do not put a price tag on a person’s life. When I recovered from this and I was living with someone at the time, he had said to me that I am half of a woman. He said because I only have one breast. I said that he was defining women by breasts. I’m a complete woman with or without a body part. You are 100% human with or without a body part.
I think you should just reduce your risk of getting breast cancer. I would advise women to get mammograms every year. They should do their self-examination. Do what you have to do to ensure yourself that you’re okay.
Message to cancer patients and caregivers
Never give up. Your life is precious and you have every right to be here on this Earth with everybody else. Fight like a warrior. Pretend you’re in the army and cancer is the enemy. Think of it that way. If you give in to cancer, it will take over your body and you will die. But if your life means something to you, then fight and go through the chemo and pain. Hope is the keyword. You can be a survivor. You have to have the mentality that I can defeat cancer.
The stigma attached to cancer
I don’t see cancer as taboo. It’s not a death sentence. I don’t know why people think it is. Everyone thinks the word cancer means that the quality of your life is over. And I don’t blame the disease. I blame the doctors. They sugarcoat when they tell you and they’ll talk to you in big words like you cannot understand. That’s a stigma right there – cancer death. Fear is not an emotion. Fear is a state of mind. You make yourself afraid, so you make yourself believe that I have cancer. Now I’m going to die. But you should be even if I have cancer I’m going to live. Think of it that way.