Nine years ago today I went in for surgery, and came out of it physically changed forever.

March 5, 2015 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, and three weeks later, on March 26 I had both breasts removed. In the pre-op area the nurse tended to me gently while we waited for the doctor. As surgery time neared and tears slowly, quietly, dampened my face, she offered me “something to relax.” I don’t remember accepting, but I was grateful when the medicine took effect. I knew when I woke up I would forever be changed physically, but I couldn’t have predicted how the total cancer experience would change me emotionally, cognitively and relationally. 

The removal of my breast tissue, and thankfully the cancer, left me flat underneath all the bandages. Later I would pursue reconstruction, but first I would undergo chemotherapy and radiation. At the end of treatment I celebrated outwardly, but inside I was a mess. The weight gain and loss of hair contributed to low self esteem, chemo impacted my cognition, and some of my relationships altered. Overall, I was on edge, unsure and deep in fear. My world had been shaken and I could not see through heavy rain. I navigated all the changes for years, dodging rain storms along the way. I continually questioned how one day I could feel fine, good really, and then be diagnosed with late stage cancer the next. And, if that was the case then, would it happen again? 

Am I happy to be alive, without cancer, nine years later? (I can almost hear the question in some readers’ minds.) Of course! I’m beyond thankful! Health is not a given, but my gratitude for my health IS a given. The intimate knowledge of how silent and sneaky cancer can be is the speck of fear that remains within, to this day. But, one of the biggest insights I’ve gained during these nine years is that multiple emotions can, and do, coexist. Fear may be present, and so is hope, and gratitude, and perseverance. Most days fear is obscured by the everydayness of living, and the sun that shines bright after the rain is something I treasure.

Katherine Marie

Read more about my story and facing my fear in, Fearless Action: Strategies and Stories to Help You Manage Your Fears and Pursue Your Goals.