My favorite aspect of the work I do, is the intrinsic bond that we have with one another because of a cancer diagnosis. The beautiful thing about the internet, is it has the capacity to create connections despite distance.
Last month, Karla, who lives in Europe, reached out to ask if I would share her story. She wanted to inspire other cancer survivors with her story of discovering painting in the midst of cancer treatment, something that she continues to do today. Here’s her story, in her own words. It’s an honor to share it with you!
Rock painting helped my cancer battle
To all the gorgeous ladies who are struggling with BC:”You are stronger than you think, and you are beautiful; it doesn’t matter how cloudy your life looks”.
Rock Painting today is my hobby and my escape. Painting rocks are giving to me Peace, and I like to share my happiness with others. Besides giving them away to my friends, a few days after I paint them I like to leave it next to others in public places.
Today I proudly celebrate being a breast cancer survivor. So far I learned to listen to my body and to put my life into perspective.
Two years ago I was fifty-one years old when I got to introduce the world of cancer. I was a mature and fulfilled person being a lead esthetician, at the peak of my career. I enjoyed my job and every day of work was a pleasure for me.
The doctors said I had an invasive lobular carcinoma of my right breast, 2 cm, HER 2 negative, stage 2. When they told me the diagnosis, I felt like my days were numbered. All the horror stories about breast cancer and chemo came to my mind. Their confidence that this disease is a treatable one helped me. But, I said, “I don’t want to do Chemo!”I looked at the treatment plan and I didn’t get it. My brain was unable to process anything; the only thing that was coming into my mind was that it will take forever.
My cancer journey started with a mastectomy surgery which also involved taking out sentinel lymph nodes (July 3rd 2018) and partial reconstruction. Later on I had a second surgery, which was about more lymph nodes (August 3rd). After that came the chemo, the scariest days of my life. The procedure, which my oncologist prescribed involved four rounds of Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide, which were followed by twelve rounds with Taxol. After the Chemo I did six weeks of radiation treatment (twenty-four sessions), but this was like a walk in a park compared to the Chemo.
The fear of not being able to practice my job any longer was a scary thing. I had nightmares that I will not be able to use my fingers, which in my job means everything. I also worried about getting sick during treatment, because my immune system was down. But the support I got from my family, friends and medical staff helped me to pass my anxiety. And the worst part of my cancer journey I think it was the day I lost my hair. I have to confess, I prepared myself in advance for what was coming, but the way I felt the minute I started to lose my hair it was unreal. It hit me hard for days, because for a woman the hair is her treasure. My husband showed me the bright side of wearing wigs, that I have the option of different hair colors without coloring it. My advice is to have two wigs ready before you will start the chemo.
My meals, at that time, were based on fresh fruits and vegetables. I had a lot of fluids that helped me to avoid any complications and build up my Immune System. Also, I covered my feet and my hands with ice to save me from neuropathy.
Chemo Brain is real! I felt disoriented, lost and tired. So, I did tons of Yoga, meditations and I started rock painting. Let me tell you, my fellow beautiful ladies, how relaxing and rewarding rock painting is; it like a therapy. Never had I thought before that a painted rock could bring me so much happiness.
Yes, it was a long journey, that wasn’t easy but honest to God I had a smooth sail. I worked every single day; I was able to have a normal life filled with lots of love from my family and friends. Right now I’m still painting rocks, and I am on a hormonal therapy with Tamoxifen.
Every day when I wake up I thank God for giving me another beautiful day on this Earth.
Would you like to share your cancer story? Let me know! I would be happy to share it. After all, when we share our stories, we recognize that we’re not alone. Feel free to email me, and we can discuss this option.
-Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing emotionally from cancer. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer the self assessment tool, cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program,virtual workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.