Friday, July 15, 2016

Six-Year Update

I get annoyed when the cancer-survivor blogs I follow don't give occasional updates to let me know how they are doing. But it is common to move on after a cancer diagnosis, and try not to look back.

So for those who so faithfully read my blog and supported me through cancer treatment, I've committed to update this blog once a year, on my cancer-versary. June 10th came and went this year and I never got around to blogging. Late is better than never!

I quit taking Tamoxifen last July. It wasn't worth it. I thought, "If this is my life, I'd rather be dead." I know that sounds dramatic, but if you reach that point, the risk vs benefit debate becomes amazingly clear. Why take a (possible) life-extending drug if it so decreases your quality of life that life isn't worth living? Going off of it was extremely difficult, causing intense mood swings that lasted about 8 months. It's leveled out now and I feel much better.

I've also been taking a sub-therapeutic dose of Effexor to help with the side-effects (and withdrawals) of Tamoxifen. If you can make it through the headaches and dizziness of the first week or two, Effexor is amazingly helpful in reducing many of the random side effects of Tamoxifen. Unfortunately, going off of it also causes intense headaches and dizziness. I'm still trying to get off of that one.

This year I've spent time grieving. Or perhaps I've just been able to identify the grief that I felt all along. I've grieved over the fact that I will likely never feel the way I did before cancer. I've grieved over the changes in every single precious relationship in my life. And mostly, I've grieved over the years I missed with my kids. I was there, but I wasn't engaged. I didn't enjoy them. I couldn't teach them like I wanted to. And there are so many things that I just don't remember. I'm beginning to see the effects my weaknesses have on their lives. It makes my heart ache.

My marriage is a constant struggle as we try to redefine our roles and figure out how to connect in new ways.

Besides that, life is good. Cancer has found it's place - as just a part of our lives and not the all-encompassing giant it once was. It has changed us. It has shaken us. It still defines us in ways…but it doesn't wholly define us. Life goes on, and we think about it less and less.

All three of the kids are in school and doing fantastic. I've been working part-time and trying to find my place in the world. Life doesn't look the way I expected it to, so I'm rewriting my expectations. It just takes time, and patience, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Dear readers, I am forever thankful for your love and prayers. I cannot imagine what this journey would be without you. Blessings!

P.S. Breast cancer is an all-out assault on ones body image and identity. I often wonder how my deformations will shape my children's view of women's bodies. One thing they will never learn from me is shame or disgust. So we approach things lightly, and have fun, even if we are a bit weird. There are no "rules" or even "norms" that go along with a cancer surgery. So we make our own.
Warning: You will see my partially-naked torso in this video (turn up the volume)…


  1. Stephanie, I'm sure you get a ton of positive thoughts and words of encouragement but I want to add my own. I did not have cancer but I am a child of both parents with cancer and a sister with breast cancer as well (she is doing fabulous by the way)! It was hard watching them all struggle, be in pain, cry, frustrated and scared but I will forever be grateful. The grateful part is from all the strength they showed me. My mom was so open with me and shared her feelings and thoughts of which were not always to do with cancer. My dad taught me how to be brave and how to laugh in the worst possible situations. I can see from your blog that you are also giving these lessons to your kids as well. My heart aches for you and your family Steph. Keep up with the positive energy. Laugh as much as possible and smile with those gorgeous eyes of yours. It does the body good! You got this!
    Your old friend,
    Erin Head

    1. Thank you Erin! That is sooooo encouraging. I never know how all of this will affect my children so it is wonderful to hear your perspective (and to know I'm doing something right!). It's great to hear from you! Hugs!

  2. I love this so much. I am in tears. I love how you & yours have handled all this through the years. Tough, yes. Brutal, of course. Handled with grace and love, without a doubt. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing! You blow me away.... <3

    1. Thanks Andrea! It is SO nice to hear from you!

  3. Steph, I have never been touched by cancer and didn't realize the long lasting effects. I absolutely love your video. You are an incredible woman and your kids and husband are very lucky. Many hugs! -Angie Rodgers