My kids were just two and one when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2022. It was challenging to explain to them what was happening with mommy and why I was so sick.
Within just a few months, I had a mastectomy, which led to an emergency surgery the day after due to complications and ended up requiring a four-day hospital stay. I then underwent chemotherapy after discovering that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. It was a whirlwind time.
No one talks about what it's like post-treatment. We know about the surgery, chemo, physical changes, nausea, and so on, but no one talks about how to move past that once the treatment is finished. On the last day of my chemo, July 11, 2022, a psychosocial therapist called me while I was undergoing treatment. That was the first time I cried. I let it all out. I finally started processing everything that had just happened.
The post-chemo phase has really taken a toll on my mental health. I experienced severe brain fog and memory issues. I had two back-to-back car accidents, including one with my kids in the car. That's when I decided to take a break, stop driving, and see a therapist for a few months. I eventually started getting over the fear of driving, but I still don't drive at night—I haven't gotten that fear yet. It's been a year since my accidents, and I still have a lot of trouble getting on the highway without panicking.
Although I’m cancer-free, I'm still dealing with it. I'm undergoing hormonal therapy and taking other medications, which we've had to switch up a few times because my body was reacting badly to them. Now, we're considering the possibility of another surgery to remove my ovaries. And I still don't feel at home in my own body.
My kids are a bit older now, and they understand a little more. I've tried to keep things light, positive, and fun with them. Before cancer, I’d always had long hair—so before having to shave it, I started cutting it gradually and had fun with different hairstyles. When I finally buzzed it, my kids loved it. My son would laugh and say, "Mommy, why did you do that to your hair? Mommy, can I touch your head?" The Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshop helped me a lot in navigating my appearance changes, especially with my kids.
Today, I've become more spiritual because of my experience. After my emergency surgery, I felt like I was given another chance at life. I'm much calmer now. I move through life at a slower pace and don't stress as much. I'm also more patient with my kids. My son is at an age where he always asks, "Why?" about everything, and I always take the time to explain things to him.
Before, I was so consumed with work, and when I wasn't working, I was busy with household chores. Now, I just want to spend time with my kids, answer all their questions, and play with them. Work will always be there, and household chores will never end. But I got a second chance to come home to my kids, and now I feel like I must be there for them more.
I was also inspired to completely shift careers. I became certified as a permanent makeup artist and now offer a variety of services through my new business. Part of my mission is to provide free support for cancer survivors, and the LGFB workshop is what inspired me to do that.