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It’s almost the end of October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I found my old blog last night and started reading through all of the posts. I was trying to find something that I could share here on our Lifting Hearts blog. It’s been 15 years this month since I had a bilateral mastectomy… Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Just wanted to share one of the posts from my blog to end the month. Let’s call this post “Strength”…

August 2009:

"It's been one year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One year ago, today, I heard those words: You have two kinds of breast cancer. I've been watching this anniversary approach for a few days now, and have been thinking back to one year ago. Little did I know, when I heard those words, what they would mean. I have a need to write about it this year - it's almost like being underwater and not being able to breath. There's a certain panicked feeling. I'm not sure why. But, maybe if I review what I've been through this last year, I will feel more in control again. I'm not sure that even makes sense. Out of control - that's how I've felt for the last year. I've felt like every second since my diagnosis has gone flying by - there just hasn't been enough time to make the decisions that I made. You would think that when you've got to decide whether or not to have your chest cut off, the world would just stop and hold it's breath. But, no. It seems like the world speeds up. Everything comes too soon. You decide on something and it seems like that something happens the next second. You can't slow it down. It's funny how things speed up and then slow way down - hurry, hurry, hurry... bi-lateral mastectomy, chemo, reconstructive surgery. Then, you lose your hair and your nails and they take forever to grow back. Your health and strength is quickly drained away, and then takes forever to come back.

When you've gone through something so life-altering, you look back and think "No way - I did not just make it through that!" Seriously. I really don't know how I'm still here. Sane. Recovering.

How did I have the strength to...

Go through a random needle biopsy by myself? I nicknamed this kind of biopsy, "harpooning for cancer". That's exactly what it was. I remember lying there with tears streaming down my face, as the doctor jabbed another needle in yet another "random" place - without. numbing. medicine. It was all I could do, after one side of my chest was done, to turn over and hold still for the other side. 19 jabs. It's one of the worst things that I've ever had to do. The pain was terrible. I will never do that again. Ever.

How did I have the strength to...

Have a bi-lateral mastectomy? I wasn't really strong. This decision almost killed me. I had to take full responsibility for it, and that wasn't easy. I remember lying on the operating table, starting to lose consciousness, and all of a sudden I just started panicking - crying uncontrollably. The nurse was kind and gave me a hug, and tried to calm me down. She asked me why I was crying - was I scared? Um... Yes! Mostly, scared of what I'd wake up to! Half of me.

How did I have the strength to...

Go through chemo? Think about it. I voluntarily walked into that room, sat down in a chair, and let them pump poison - real poison - into my body. I can't believe I didn't get up out of the chair and run screaming from the room. What gave me the strength to sit there? I remember being so scared - I've never been that scared before. It was fear of the unknown, I think. What would this poison do to my body? I knew it would kill the cancer, but what else would it do?

How did I have the strength to...

Make it through each night after that first chemo treatment? I rarely slept during those first three weeks. There are night demons that disturb your sleep when you've got poison running through your veins. When everything else in the house goes silent and sleeps, your brain doesn't. I remember waking up at different times during the night to tug on my hair - just to make sure it wasn't falling out yet. I would wander through the rooms in my house, thinking. And, during the dead of night, your thoughts are not pleasant ones, believe me.

How did I have the strength to...

Shave my head? That was almost worse than the mastectomy! Your hair is your identity. At least, it seems like it is after you've lost it. It's awful for a woman to be bald. It plays with her mind - kills her self esteem. And what about going out in public after you've shaved your head. I really can't believe I ever left the house.

How did I have the strength to...

Sit in the chair at the plastic surgeon's office and let him fill the expanders? I remember walking into the exam room and seeing those syringes filled with saline. I hate needles, and there I was, staring at 2 inch long needles attached to 6 inch long syringes, as big around as a cucumber! 60cc shot into each expanders, every 3 weeks. It was awful... really, it was awful.

How does one find the strength to go through anything hard in this life? Where does that strength come from? Well, I believe that every person has an inner strength - something that we pull from deep down inside of us when we have to. But, I also believe in the strength that God gives us. I know he walked by me through this whole last year, and, at times (probably more often than not), He carried me. I've felt his love and concern for me. I've felt His encouragement when I didn't think I could get out of bed, or get through the recovery after a surgery. I'm so grateful for the spirit of the Lord in my life. I would never have been able to get through this last year without that spirit leading and guiding me.

I think I'm a stronger person today, than I was one year ago. I was able to make it through a year of hell, and I'm still around to continue fighting. It's ok, too. I'm fine, and I'll continue to heal and regain strength. I look forward to one year from now. My goals? To be healthier than I was last year when I was diagnosed. To make exercise part of my daily routine. To learn everything I can about nutrition, so that I can take care of my body. To smile more - and to be truly happy with myself and my body."

-Kara Herron, President, Lifting Hearts

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