I lived my whole life being very independent, anything I can do alone I would. I recall going to my dentist appointments alone at 12 years of age. My independence has always been something I pride myself on. Needless to say, when I found out about my cancer, I wasn’t very accepting of getting help. It made me feel weak and unlike myself. I allowed the support of my family to be a cause of stress in the beginning, which was selfish at the time because they were going through it with me. They too had a hard time digesting the reality of the situation and involving them through all the hardships was the only way we could all feel and deal better.
I slowly started accepting help over time. I am fortunate enough to have a best friend who became my rock through this journey, offering emotional support and a shoulder to cry on. While my eldest sister was in charge of gathering all my paperwork and sending it off to New York, my father and other sister made the decision to move with me and at first that caused a lot of guilt. I felt guilty for forcing change upon them and that feeling stayed with me for months.
Another thing my pride didn’t allow me was to ask for help when I needed it. As my treatment progressed and I got sicker, I found myself reluctant to ask for help until I found myself feeling faint on the side of the street. It was my wake up call. I have cancer and I cannot do this alone.
I sought help from the social worker provided by the hospital; she normalized my feelings, made me realize my thinking errors and taught me how to deal better. This was the turning point in my attitude. I realized guilt had no place in my heart, my family chose to change their lives to be there for me and I should feel nothing but gratitude.
My sister became my caregiver; her days revolve around making sure I’m okay. She prepares my meals, reminds me to take my medications and accompanies me to every doctor visit. She’s the true hero in my story. So if you know someone going through cancer, don’t hesitate to offer help. Often times we are too proud to ask for it but we certainly need it and every bit of support makes a difference.
My journey is far from over and I truly feel blessed to have been able to share my story in hope of inspiring others. I wish for every one reading my words to be more aware of the reality of breast cancer. I spent the last 6 months reading books and educating myself about the disease, I believe all women should do the same, especially in our part of the world where cancer isn’t talked about enough. Awareness leads to early detection which saves lives.
In the spirit of breast cancer awareness month: I urge all women to get screened on an annual basis. Be familiar with your own body. Educate yourself and others and if you find yourself in my place, share your story and make it your purpose to help others. Together we can make a difference.