With Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming to a close, we share this amazing patient’s story with you. We hope it offers support and optimism and encourage all men and women to keep the awareness conversation going, not just this month, but every month.
I was just a few months into my 30s when Dr. Alane Park called me to let me know that I had Stage I Breast Cancer. I clearly remember the day and time of the day when the news was delivered. I was in my office, around 2’o clock in the afternoon, and my co-worker had come in to talk to me about something. Tears went down my cheeks as I stared at my co-worker blankly.
First thoughts and feelings were disbelief, confusion, and fear. I had heard about breast cancer through a 5K Walk/Run Revlon Marathon that I ran the previous year. But I had no idea I might run for myself. My breast cancer was triple negative and aggressive, which meant the cause of cancer is unknown and the tumor is aggressively growing. Surgery was set up immediately and all procedures following the surgery went quickly as scheduled. I had no time to dwell on my emotions. I had surgeries to go to, appointments to attend, and check-ups to follow. I think this was actually a good thing. If I had too much time to think, my fear may have escalated.
I believe there is a thin line between sanity and insanity and it’s so easy to let yourself go. This is a critical point that I would like to stress. In my opinion, a healthy body begins with a healthy mind. If you have been notified that you are diagnosed with cancer, you probably just entered into a dark tunnel. You have no idea what this means, how the cancer will change you and your life, and what your outcome may be. I was lost in the dark tunnel not knowing whether there would be a light at the end. But I refused to let fear take the best of me. I wanted to live and bring back my normal life as soon as possible. I focused all my energy on treatments and regaining my health.
During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I forced myself to eat as much as I could despite having lost my appetite. I started juicing fresh organic fruits everyday. I strongly believe drinking fruit juice helped me to get healthier much faster. (Blend seasonal fruits or your favorite fruits with a quarter cup of water for about 3 minutes. I always add green grapes for sweetness.) I felt the best way to physically beat cancer was to add vitamins and minerals that I lost through Chemotherapy. I slept a lot too. I slept when I was tired, sad, scared, and feeling sick. I depended on my Christian faith with God, prayed and cried to Him. I dedicated my mind to how I could ease myself through what I had to go through.
In the end, I found a light. Eight months of treatments felt like a long tunnel but I found myself living a normal life again. Three month check-ups eventually became six month check-ups because I passed the routine exams perfectly. It’s been 3 years since I have been cancer-free and I am now 16 weeks pregnant!! What a blessed gift after a tough battle! The baby is growing healthy and I have no complications. I just saw my baby throwing upper-cut punches and kicking through an ultrasound. What a joy and a sense of feat that my pregnancy is thriving even after toxic treatments.
I am healthier than ever thanks to the healthy lifestyle I’ve adopted. Above all, I’m a much happier person. I appreciate life so much more. I don’t take small things for granted. I never let negativity bring me down. I surround myself with things I love and keep positive energy around me. What an irony that I had an epiphany through the darkest tunnel.
Would I have found the light at the end of the tunnel if I hadn’t stayed optimistic throughout the cancer experience? I don’t think so. I may still be lost. What a terrifying thought. With today’s advanced medical technology and improving methods for treatments, you are in good hands so don’t let your fear take the best of you. You may also have options to conveniently set up treatment times according to your work or personal schedule. I received radiation treatments before work as early as 7:30am. I continued to work full time throughout treatments with some adjustments with my work schedule. I had Chemotherapy on Fridays and took Mondays off to return to work on Tuesdays. Resting three full days before returning to work was totally bearable! Of course, I owe much gratitude to my boss who was understanding and compassionate. Don’t be afraid to ask for what’s best for you.
Honestly, sometimes I forget I ever had cancer. But the scars all over my body (breast and lymph node areas) remind me of the battle I have won. These scars will remind me to continue to share my story to encourage others who may be in the darkness now. I hope it adds more light to your journey.
~ Se Won “Jesse” Cho