From “I have cancer” to “I had cancer”

Wow! It feels like I haven’t written in forever!  A part of me wants to blame it on my busy life, getting back to dipping my feet into a kazillion different things from work to hobbies, then theres that part of me that doesn’t feel like the past couple months have been very “cancer exciting” so why should I blog for you all… I mean I guess thats a good thing right?

Today I am one month short of being 1 whole year cancer free (from my last radiation treatment)— and oddly enough, it feels like that July day was way longer than a year ago!  Its so bizarre because its as if my brain is naturally blocking the most difficult times of my life as a natural coping mechanism.  I feel like this chapter of my life has been closed for such a long time!  I mean, my hair is now shoulder length, I have energy to do things, I want so badly to just live my life again!  But the truth is… I have a new life now, and I have to find a way to come to terms with this reality.

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Survivorship puts you into this awkward limbo state.  You are deemed “cancer free” after your last treatment however they don’t necessarily have a test that can actually identify on a cellular level if indeed ALL the cancer is out of your body… so am I supposed to believe my doctors?  Even months after receiving my “cancer free” card… I still found it awkward to say “I HAD cancer”, what if I still “HAVE cancer”? Then my hair and outward appearance is still different so it’s just easier to say, “oh I have cancer”thats why my hair is short and I’m chubby… then there is that pity party— UGH its just so complicated!

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When cancer treatments are over, we are expected to be happy!  We’re expected to just jump on back to the life we once lived.  To get back to work, get back to the gym, get back to life… and that is simply so far from the reality of it all.  No-one really sees all the PTSD and anxiety that us survivors live every single day.  Living in fear that one day we will wake up and the cancer will be back and we will have to live this hell all over again.  The truth is, we don’t get to go back in time to our pre-cancer existence, we are simply forced to move forward, and move on, that is one of the most difficult parts of this journey yet!

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I remember my doctors telling me, “I am going to bring you to near death with your treatments in order to save your life”.  It isn’t until a year and a half later that I am looking back and realizing the true depth of this statement.  A part of me is so thankful— HELL IM ALIVE!  But, then theres a part of me that looks at how different my life is.  I am filled with anxiety, i’m unhappy with my body, my hormones are all over the place, I may never be able to have a child of my own naturally— that hurts! I have only recently realized that the old me is actually gone forever. Yes, physically treatment has saved my life, however cancer has stolen my life- my old life is dead, the new me is alive. But who am I?

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There was a time during treatment that all I wanted to hear was that “I am cancer free”.  I prayed for a complete response to chemo- I didn’t get that.  I begged for clear margins post my mastectomy- I was so blessed to have a perfect surgery.  I dreamed of getting back to life… but thats just it, this new life is hard freakin work! I question my existence everyday.  Do my old friends not talk to me because I am different?  Will I only ever be able to truly connect to Breasties I meet online or through travel?

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Once my treatments ended, I think Ive been faced with more fear than during chemo!  The fear of the unknown attacks me daily and my incredible husband is always there to build me up from the crumbling mess I become especially at night when my brain doesn’t want to stop thinking about the what ifs.  The average person doesn’t realize that when someone is going through cancer, they see atleast one doctor weekly if not multiple times a week.  Now, I don’t see my doctors for 3-6 months at a time! It is the weirdest and scariest feeling ever, because what if i’m missing a symptom that they would be able to catch and i’m overlooking.

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From looks, to career, to friendships, to hobbies, to overall attitude, views, and determination— my life has completely changed. Heck I’m Meghan Koziel now not even Meghan Franz! My name has even changed thank you marriage:)! I’d say I am a completely different person, and although a part of me is sad for losing my boobs, my cute skinny body, my hair… I am so blessed for becoming a strong, compassionate, lively me!

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For the past year and a half I’ve been a 26 year old diagnosed with breast cancer… today, I am Meghan Koziel a 28 year old wife, puppy mommy, daughter, sister, Occupational Therapist, blogger, advocate and boutique owner.  I am involved with multiple breast cancer organization, I participate in local and travel meet ups with breasties, I even continue to dedicate countless hours conversing with girls and guy through instagram providing encouragement and experience.  Although I will NEVER put my cancer journey behind me… I think it is time to push forward and move on to the “I HAD cancer” phrase… maybe?

XOXO

Meg

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6 thoughts on “From “I have cancer” to “I had cancer”

  1. This was so spot on girlfriend! Even though my journey was completely different, I can agree with you 100%# Sometimes I do feel I have PTSD…….but thank goodness for my breasties and awesome friends!

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  2. Hi Meghan, I’m a 48 year old breastie, just going through chemo – 3rd cycle next Friday. I don’t feel like my old self either. I enjoyed my life. I too am doggy mummy and occupational therapist – I liked my job! I hope at some point I can say I had breast cancer – it is a worry that we go through this crap and it could come back. I’m lucky in that I had a lumpectomy and he jigged around breast tissue so you can’t tell – the work under my armpit to the lymph nodes means that I know it was done every day! I occupational therapied myself though and full active functional range due to my grading activity post op. thank you for your honest thoughts and articulate way of putting them down. I’m sure they resonate with lots of people. jxx

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    • Omg i cannot believe your also an OT! Youll get back to it! I worked acute care for almost 4 years… now im school based, I love my job and im sooooo happy to be back! If u ever need to talk let me know! You got this!

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  3. With this entry you must have been reading my mind it is exactly how I feel. Especially the part about becoming a different person that im stronger and more lively but life is defintely harder but going through what I have in the past year has made me be able to fight through and jump through all the obstacles life has thrown at me. Thank you for being so inspiration and motivational. Following you on IG has helped me so much thank you. My next step is now that I realize that my life is different what do I do with my life. Happy for a new begining but sad that I dont know quite what to do 😏….

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    • Thank you so much for messaging me! I say it all the time, i share my story hoping to make a difference, it fills my heart with joy when people message me and say it actually helps them!

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