Breast Cancer Survivor: Four Years Later

Hey, me again… I’m still here! It’s been four years since my world was rocked. I’m a four year breast cancer survivor. Naturally I’m terribly pleased, but it’s not like all of a sudden I’ve reached utopia where I relax and let my guard down. Life after cancer is filled with silent lonely battles.

I’m one year away from that ‘magical’ five year mark. This is a term doctors and researchers use as a benchmark amongst themselves to compare cases, not predict individual outcomes. So who knows what that really means for me. What I do know is I can’t escape the constant reminders of what an arsehole cancer is.

March 27th is the date I officially received my cancer diagnosis. After a surreal four weeks, I had my double mastectomy which erased cancer from my body on April 29th.  This time period is pretty insignificant for most, but this four week period sends me spiraling back to those dark days.  I probably have PTSD to be honest.  And I think this is probably normal.  

The constant nightmare of being a breast cancer survivor is not something we simply ‘put behind us’. Our appointments, communications with doctors and constant monitoring of our bodies are the difference between survival and recurrence.  Living and dying.  Seeing your kids graduate and not seeing them graduate. And no child should have to care for mom as she battles this horrid disease. 

taking care of mom with breast cancer
These guys are the best nurses in town!

As I reach my four year ‘anniversary’ (which sounds far to jolly for what I’m commemorating here), there are a few things on my mind.

  • Without fail at each appointment, my chatter about warm blankets, free coffee and the sweet nurse drawing my blood, is just me trying to fake myself out and pretend things are normal. Pretending this is a regular doctor appointment. If I pretend, I might actually believe these appointments are really no biggie. The reality that one elevated tumor marker will send my life spiraling is just too painful to think about. 
  •  Hot hubby doesn’t quite know what to do with me during this timeframe.  It seems that everything he says is wrong because he ‘just doesn’t get it’.  And the truth is, he doesn’t get it.  Unless you’ve lived those terrifying weeks with death wrapping its arm around you, you don’t truly get it.  My only choice is to sit with these feelings. It’s a time of reflection (did that really happen to me), celebration  (yippeee I’m still here), and I might allow myself the occasional pity party (why did I get it?)
  • I don’t like to talk about my cancer because I want to protect you and me from an uncomfortable conversation. I don’t want to be ‘Debbie Downer’ or a bore because ‘I’m still here’. I can’t bear the discomfort in your eyes and voice. The truth is I’m riddled with medical problems: hormonal mood swings, intense joint pain, insomnia, chemo-brain, menopause, fatigue… all caused by daily medications. That I get to take for ten years. It totally f-ing sucks to be honest.
  • I’m so happy to be alive.  I mean really happy to be alive. I’m grateful for each milestone I celebrate with my children. I can’t help thinking how these milestones would have looked had I died.  I spend more time with them, cuddle them, kiss them (which is a challenge now they’re teens). I tell them I love them many times each day, and it’s annoying to them. But I don’t care. I want to teach them everything (Sebastian learned how to make roast chicken and roast vegetables last week). The truth is I want to teach them everything, but may not get that opportunity.boymom loves her boys
  • I’m incredibly grateful to share life with Hot Hubby. He loves me. I mean really loves me. Don’t get me wrong, if I had died someone would have snapped him up quickly and he’d be living his best life right now with a 30 year old Sam version 2.0.  But I know deep down he would never choose that.  Regardless of his terribly timed jokes, he dropped everything to nurse me back to health.  Showered me. Fed me.  Changed my bandages. Administered medications. Drove me to each appointment.  He tells me he loves my (new, scarred, and plastic) body, and that I’ve never looked more beautiful to him.
  • There is no ‘getting back to normal.’  I have a new normal. If you’ve haven’t faced the possibility of death, it’s hard to comprehend what that feels like. My new normal has a deeper urgency, a deep feeling life is precious and should be treasured every single minute.
  • One of the blessings of this ‘club’, is the opportunity to help other women with breast cancer. However in the spirit of honesty, sometimes being around other cancer patients and survivors can be difficult. I’m often triggered by their stories and spiral back to my own nightmare.
    breast cancer survivor
    This is my beautiful friend Heidi, she is currently fighting the good fight!

Yet being around women who know what it’s like to worry about leaving their children without a momma, hoping to see them graduate, or wondering if they will have a recurrence, makes me feel safe and understood. I will always be there for others walking this path… regardless of any personal pain it may trigger. Cancer survivor’s need each other. We’re in the same club.

  • Do I have cancer cells waiting to parade through my body? Am I exercising enough? Will my semi-plant based diet prevent cancer cels from growing? Will my love of tequila cause a recurrence? Who the f**k knows… it’s all a big mystery. As a breast cancer survivor I live with this uncertainty forever.
  • I pretend I’m not, but I’m often really scared. Fear hits me when I least expect it. I held steadfast and strong for four weeks, preparing my mind and body for an invasive-9hr-life-altering surgery, yet I often fall apart if the nurse can’t find my vein at my oncology appointment. My fears are bottled up inside and fall out when I least expect them. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cause a scene. I wish I could control this.
  • I thought once I finished my treatment and the surgeries were healed, I’d be on ‘the other side.’ There is no other side for a breast cancer survivor. My life is split into two parts: life before I was diagnosed with breast cancer and life after cancer. 

We all die. It’s inevitable. I’m not afraid to die. Having stared death in the face, I’m now more afraid of not living each day with purpose. With passion. With love. With gratitude. And I vow to live each remaining day I am given with purpose.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below and joining me on Instagram and Twitter!


About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising feral wolves teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

11 COMMENTS

  1. | 26th Mar 19

    So honored to know you and call you a friend! <3

  2. | 26th Mar 19

    So honored to know you and call you a friend. Your strength is remarkable.

    • Samantha | 27th Mar 19

      Thank you so much! XX

  3. Andrea | 19th Apr 19

    Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on your milestone. It’s so true that everyones journey is different and we need to give ourselves grace through it all. I’m slowly approaching my 5 year mark being cancer free and your blog helped me realize and remember how far I’ve come.

    • Samantha | 20th Apr 19

      Congratulations to you for approaching 5 years… each day is a challenge and i am sorry that you are also part of this club…xx

  4. | 22nd Apr 19

    I first read your article, Where did Senior Year Go, on Grown and Flown. I always love reading thoughts/experiences/ideas of other boy moms. I loved what you had to say so I started to click around on your website. And, that’s when I found that not only are we both the mom of two boys, originally from CA, but also both breast cancer survivors. I loved everything you wrote in this article as well as your article about what not to say to breast cancer survivors (I did my own version of this on my CaringBridge page). I am only 1 1/2 years out — but, I am book marking this article to remind myself that 1. I am not alone 2. It is very common to have “triggers” and want to avoid them as well as so many other things you stated. From the bottom of my heart — thank you!! And, best of luck to your boy and to you mom as you (we) embark on this exciting new chapter with our kids!!

    • Samantha | 24th Apr 19

      ahhhh thank you so much. That means so much to me, and I’m so grateful you relate to what I write. Although I’m sorry that we are both in this horrible club together. Boys are funny, I’m loving every single minute, and hopefully by documenting it here I’ll remember when I eventually lose my memory completely! 😉 . Sending you love, health and joy with your boys too! XX

  5. Kristin | 9th May 19

    Oh my how this hits so close to home. Thank you for sharing these words. I’ve felt so many of these feelings and I love knowing that I’m not alone.

    • Samantha | 13th May 19

      Cancer really is the gift that keeps on giving isn’t it….. grrrr…. so sorry that you are in this special club too! XXX . Sam

  6. Michele | 27th Jul 19

    I came across your blog and have just spent the past two hours reading it instead of sleeping. I found it funny and inspirational but also scary. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer with surgery scheduled Sept 5. I have 2 boys, 10 and 16, and we too have travelled many places with them just like you. We are planning to tell them in 2 days and I know it will change their world forever and that makes me sad. I love to see that you still have continued your life and travel post cancer and that gives me hope. Thank you for writing with such candor.

    • Samantha | 28th Jul 19

      HI Michele, I am so sorry to har that you were just diagnosed and that we now share this special club. It’s so hard telling your children, especially when you’re the queen of the house like we are. Sending you love, strength and support as you navigate this and please do reach out to me if you have any questions or need any support. XXX . Sam

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