Spending Time at the Hospital for Day Surgery Made Me Realize How Grateful I Was for Having Had Breast Cancer

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On July 29, 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my right breast. I distinctly remember sitting in my doctor’s office at 3:30 p.m. on that Friday afternoon hoping for my biopsy results to be negative.

ZaheenCancerHeadImageI had my dark moments. I felt like my ego had been slapped. My thoughts revolved around:

  • Here I was teaching people to eat healthy and live healthy, and I own a wellness centre; not to mention I don't smoke or drink alcohol - so why me!
  • This is disrupting my life - will I be going through chemotherapy and losing my hair?
  • How will I feel if I lose my breast? Is the cancer going to spread?

I was scared, but having support around me really helped. I always say, “Support is a basic need too!”

SupportIsHumanNeedOn August 24, I was scheduled for a Lumpectomy (removing part of my breast where the tumor was). As the anesthesia started wearing off, I slowly started waking up to my surroundings and found myself in a room with two other women.

ZaheenHospitalBedThe nurses referred to me as OCP – it was also on my chart! Before I left the hospital I just had to ask what that meant. It stands for: Over Capacity Person! The nurses and I had a great laugh. The woman on my left had been in the hospital for eight days. She suffered from Crohn’s disease and had her colon removed in a procedure known as Colectomy.

I couldn’t imagine having that removed because it affects a person’s daily routine of going to the washroom. That thought alone made me grateful for what I had – a breast is not really an organ inside my body and even if it is removed, it doesn’t affect one’s daily lifestyle. Yes, having a breast removed could affect how one perceives their body image and I’m glad that reconstruction surgery is offered. Please understand, I’m not downplaying breast cancer or Crohn’s disease. I’m only referring to the thoughts I had as I spent the day at the hospital.

The person on my right was a frail, tiny little woman of 94 years. As she spoke to her family, a palliative physician and her friend throughout the day, I gathered the reason she was there. She had severe pain in her abdomen the night before and went to the ER where she was informed that there was a blockage in her bowels.

The physicians in the ER had given her two options:

  • Have surgery.
  • Opt-out of surgery, but that would mean she wouldn’t have long to live.

She decided to opt out of surgery.

heard her ask her daughter, “Will you miss me? I feel bad that you have to deal with all my things in the apartment now.”

Her language and voice sounded like she had given up and she was leaving the world tomorrow. In the afternoon, her daughter and son-in-law told her that they’d be back after 5 p.m. because they all needed to rest. However, the frail lady replied, “Don’t you think one of you should stay back because I don’t have much time left?”

Later on that afternoon, a palliative physician dropped by and started asking her questions about her health and how she felt. I must say I was very impressed with the physician and I was also impressed with the memory of this 94-year old woman.

Five minutes into the conversation, the 94-year old asked, “What’s the point of asking me all these questions? I’ll be gone soon.”

The palliative physician replied, “We don’t know when that will happen, but until then I want to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible.”

In behaviour science or therapy, what the palliative physician is doing, is moving the focus from worry and anxiety to that of acceptance and finding solutions for what the patient wants NOW.

As I was hearing all this, again it made me realize how grateful I was for everything in my life and I have no regrets. I’m living my passion and I’m glad I didn’t give that up.

Do you have any regrets?

Whether it’s going for what you want to do or bringing closure to a situation that happened years ago, or whether its mending a relationship with a loved one whom you haven’t spoken to in years?

Leave your ego at the door and let your inhibitions go.

Did you notice how both ladies made me realize different aspects of my life? The cancer I had in my breast, and the surgery I underwent, felt miniscule, TO ME, compared to what these ladies were going through.

Now that you have read this post, what’s going through your mind? Please share in the comments.

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