Journey to Me

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, October 31, 2018
By Emy Fernandez, MBA, Life Coach

Life and Heath Coach

Today, October 31, 2018, marks the year since the beginning of my wellness journey after my September 2017 diagnoses of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (or breast cancer).
My surgery would be the next day, November 1, 2017 and I was ready! I had done my homework. Interviewed doctors – with my sister tagging along with a notebook (which I highly recommend since I always forgot everything as soon as I walked out), registered at the hospital, and set the alarm for the early wakeup.
Now I would be able to enjoy my niece’s Halloween party…
Or so I thought. . . but the only thing I could think of was my metamorphosis from who I had known for the past 58 years to someone new. I wasn’t in party mood. . . so I just decided to go home and go to bed.
My surgery went really well. My doctors were great. After 3 days in the hospital I went home with my sister where my husband and brother-in-law were waiting. I stayed with them until the end of November recovering. As we neared the end of November, I thought finally, now I just need to get the reconstruction surgery out of the way and I’m done.
Then, on November 29, the results of my Oncotype test were in –  my sister took me to see the oncologist for the reconstruction surgery clearance. . . I was ready. . . I looked and felt great and I was excited. . . but. . . my oncologist wasn’t as ready as I was. 
She said I needed chemotherapy and possibly radiation. . . “WHAT? YOU CRAZY LADY!!” I screamed – inside. On the outside instead, I just silently looked at my sister to make sure I had understood correctly. . . I had – I could see the surprise on my sister’s face too.
I turned around and said to the doctor “Are you sure? It can’t be – I feel great!” She smiled, turned and quietly began explaining the Oncotype test to me while I stared, my sister taking notes. . . 
My chemotherapy was scheduled to begin December 15, 2017 until May 4, 2018. My hair began to fall out after the first chemo session so we did what my family always does – we had a party. My son and one of his best friends were both there – they were in charge of the head shaving – my son shaving his in solidarity. 

Hairless, I went to the bathroom and locked the door. As I looked at myself in the mirror the only thing I could do was stare. I looked worse than what I really felt. I walked back out and my niece wrapped a scarf around my head and we all went out to a nice dinner. That was the only and the last day I wore a scarf.

As the days and weeks went by I got used to my looks – slowly forgetting what I used to look like. I pulled a picture from my son’s wedding from a year before. I chose that picture because I was very happy that day. I put it on the wallpaper on my phone to remind me of me. . .

With time, my eyebrows slowly disappeared and so did my eyelashes. My nails turned black as the chemo slowly killed them. When I walked I looked ahead beyond the stares, eventually, the feelings of the stares also disappeared. I lived in my bubble. The only time I felt comfortable leaving my bubble was when my sister took me to my chemo sessions. These were the only times I felt like the old me laughing and enjoying the 4 to 5 hours we were there.
Although it wasn’t easy navigating the side effects of the chemo, I kept thinking during that time how difficult it must be for those undergoing chemo while still having cancer. I no longer had the tumor. The therapy was only preventive.
Today my hair and eyelashes are growing back and my eyebrows have magically reappeared. My nails look beautiful. I’m not back to playing tennis 8 to 10 hours a week – I’ve started at 1 hour per week, while slowly beginning to walk 2 to 3 times per week. I’m seeing a nutritionist while I continue getting stronger. 
I no longer carry my picture on my phone. I’ve come to realize that I’ll never be the Emy I was before. I’m a different Emy now both inside and out. Not better or worse just different. So – although I was going to say that I’m almost back to the way I used to be before my diagnoses – instead I remind myself that today “this is me.”