Dorothy and Toto, have been taken from their prior lives by a tornado, a cancer diagnosis. They show up in an unknown place, unsure of what to do and which way to go. Their known way of living and Dorothy’s life are intimidated by cancer, the haunting Witch. Along their journey, they meet several companions; the Scarecrow, who portrays the knowledge and information needed to make educated decisions and consent to treatment; the Tin Man, who portrays the physical impacts of cancer and cancer treatment; and the Cowardly Lion, who portrays the psychosocial impacts of cancer and treatment, and the mandatory courage needed to overcome fear. Glinda the Good Witch portrays the health care team who will guide Dorothy and Toto through the process, and the Wizard of OZ illustrates recovery and survivorship.
In the fall of 2017, a discovered lump in my right armpit raised some concern prompting a visit to my PA for a further diagnosis. An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed the news no one wants to hear, “you have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma … breast cancer.” The Wicked Witch of the West stuck her green pointy nose in my face, and I was no longer in Kansas anymore.
My yellow brick road journey started with an introduction to the Scarecrow who guided my networking research into a prescribed timeline starting with my oncologist in Minot, a surgeon in Bismarck, two visits to Mayo in MN, and a cancer care team to administer the required chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The Tin Man, who showed up as weekly drives to Minot to endure 20 weeks of chemotherapy followed up by 28 daily rounds of radiation became the norm with expected physical and mentally demanding common side effects. I personally embraced the hair loss, pushed through the chemo brain fog, exercised to fight my light fatigue, and adapted my appetite to find warmth and comfort in certain foods. The Cowardly Lion brought fear and anxiety of looking and feeling different. Bouts of periodic depression and stress needed to be medicated daily through my holistic practices of yoga, meditation, and light exercise.
Glenda the Good Witch showed up as The Trinity Cancer Care team who provided the bubble of goodness in helping me receive the best treatment care possible. Two trips to Mayo in MN delivered necessary goodness needed to continue my care close to home. Monthly massage, chiropractic adjustments, and my alternative medicine doctor in SD all contributed to my cancer care team to guide me through this necessary time of my cancer journey.
Finally, my Wizard of OZ brought rediscovery of SELF physically, mentally and spiritually. Physically, I continue to exercise or add movement daily. Mentally, I practice calming breathing techniques and short meditations, and spiritually, my wellness is being nurtured through value system practices.
As there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, what practices can we adopt to help stay cancer free?
- Stay physically active – daily
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight
- Keep away from hormone therapy replacement after menopause (find natural ways to replace your hormones).
- Avoid or limit alcohol
- Follow a healthy eating pattern
Remember that “Somewhere over the Rainbow” there is hope and we are always making strides against breast cancer through prevention, education, and donations.