Patient Blogs | Breast Cancer
From Breast Cancer Patient to Survivor: How My Journey Changed Me
photo of woman relaxing by pool

People consistently said, “Don’t let cancer define you throughout your cancer journey.” That sentiment puzzles me because breast cancer has defined me and redefined me. I will always be described as a previous breast cancer patient and now a survivor.

There’s no escaping my breast cancer experience. I cannot tuck the traumatic memories away or move the current feelings to the back burner. I’m reminded every day of both the trauma and triumph of my cancer journey.

Aside from the scarring on and under my breasts, where they look like railroad tracks from the lumpectomy, reconstruction, and reduction, I don’t visually look the same as I did before the cancer.

Whenever I wear a V-neck or round neckline, my port scar is visible, and people tend to stare because they have no idea what that scar is. Some people have rudely pointed to it and asked, “What is that from?” Others stare uncomfortably.

Let’s talk about hair because it’s a sensitive subject for a Black woman, even before breast cancer. I thought my hair would eventually go back to being straight like it did for so many of my friends in the breast cancer community, but my hair pattern is permanently changed.

Once shoulder-length and straight, my hair is now short and curly like a chia pet. Even after a full year of blow-drying it straight, the curls stubbornly return, which reminds me that I’m no longer in control.

I’ve had people touch my hair without asking and in awe because it “feels so soft,” and I wonder: What did they think post-chemo hair should feel like? I want to scream that my hair is not an attraction at the zoo!

Aside from my chemo curly hair, my eyebrows and lashes didn’t grow back the same way either. My brows were beautifully thick and shaped once, and my lashes were long and curled.

Now my brows are sparse, and I use a brow gel to fill them in, and my lashes are much thinner, and I must use a smaller mascara brush to curl and lengthen.

I’ve also felt that cancer has redefined me. I’ll never say my cancer experience made me stronger. I’ve been a strong person since birth. It’s more about how I react in certain situations and what I’ll no longer tolerate.

I’m still talked down to and dismissed by many white doctors and by certain white people in the cancer community. It has been both heartbreaking and maddening. Instead of remaining silent and forcing myself to smile and endure it, I began to speak up and push back, even though my voice would often shake from fear.

Each day brings its struggles physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even 6 years later, I’m still getting to know this body that feels and looks foreign. I don’t relate to the term “survivor” because I never fully healed from the trauma of multiple surgeries, treatment, and long-term side effects.

The words “cancer” and “breast cancer” will always be part of my vocabulary because there’s not a day that goes by without thinking about it.

 

To connect with other breast cancer survivors, join our Breast Cancer Facebook Support Group

 

 

Photo Credit: PeopleImages / E+ via Getty Images

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Megan-Claire Chase

Megan-Claire Chase

Diagnosed since 2016

Megan-Claire Chase is a 5-year breast cancer survivor in Atlanta, GA. A sought-after influencer in the cancer community, Chase shares her experiences in her blog, Life on the Cancer Train. She has written for Cancer Health magazine, SHARE Cancer Support, and Patient Power and has been featured in The New York Times and People magazine. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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