Strength is my Inspirational Word
We asked breast cancer survivors the following question: if they were to choose one word to define their journey what would it be and why? Wrapped inside each word the women have shared, is a seed of a story. It connects the pain, the fear, and the grueling impact of surgeries and treatments to courage and the hope of a happier healthier tomorrow. We honour their stories by sharing them with those who may be recently diagnosed as much as those who are at a different point in their journey. It is a ‘note to self’ to keep the conversation going and keep the connections strong.
For survivor Giuseppina, this was the word that defined her journey: Strength.
Strength is my inspirational word because we need strength to keep going while in treatment. Mental strength to keep a positive attitude. Hi my name is Giuseppina Sciortino. I turned 60 this year. My life was perfect. I was cancer free for almost 18 years shy of one month.
In June 2020, during the peak of Covid I felt a lump on my right breast again, but this time it was on the opposite side but same breast. I froze and woke up my husband. I asked him to feel my breast to see if he felt the lump too. He said yes. At that moment I felt my world clasping right in front of my eyes. I said to myself how could that be after 18 years. I cried myself to sleep and the following morning I reacted by calling Queen Elisabeth Hospital and told the girl on the phone that I needed a mammogram right away. I had a scheduled appointment in August. They scheduled me the following day. I had mammogram. Two days later they called me to have a ultra sound. Once again I felt that my world was tumbling right in front of me. I was scared. How can it be?
One week later life was not going to be the same.
Doctors appointments, CT scan, Bone scan, and so on. It was confirmed that I had breast cancer once again. It was the same type of cancer I had 18 years ago: triple negative breast cancer. This time I had to have a mastectomy. I would like to mention that for 18 years I had never missed an appointment with my surgeon and oncologist. I performed self-exams very often. I kept telling myself this is not happening to me again! My doctor got the ball rolling and told me that I would be operated ASAP. On July 31, 2020 I was operated. Recovery was long and difficult. It brought back so many bad memories. I also knew what was coming up next, chemotherapy. My first experience was so difficult and this time I was worried that I did not have the strength to fight this. But as the days passed I went through a grieving process—Denial and isolation, Anger Bargaining and Depression. Life was not easy. As I got closer to start chemo I told myself that I was going to beat this! I was going to take chemo head on and deal with it with a positive attitude. What was sad was that my husband couldn’t be with me during the six sessions of chemo. I will say it was not easy, but it was better than my first cancer. I felt very alone without the support of people going through the same thing.
This time I really paid attention to my emotional needs and I was self-aware of the toll it took on my mental health. I am doing better thanks to Sophie. Her post treatment group has made me feel that I am not alone. Yes I always had family around to be there for me but the support of others in my shoes felt more meaningful and comforting. I also like to mention that I also had the support of the Wellness Center in Kirkland. I joined different activities via zoom. This helped me to deal with my mental health.
I do ask myself every day, how long will I have this time? My answer to myself is nobody knows. Live each day as if it’s your last day.