Thank you to my good friend Cheryl Morgan Maxey for this four-part series on her breast cancer, from diagnosis to the completion of her treatments. Cheryl amazed me with her upbeat attitude and courage. We hope her account will help others going through the same journey. Take it away, Cheryl!
I was very open about my breast cancer diagnosis and my treatment. After telling my family and a handful of friends, my diagnosis was announced publicly by a blog post my husband wrote called “Training for Cancer.”
We both shared it on our Facebook pages and told the world about what we were about to face. I used my Facebook page as a way to document the process. At each treatment, I counted them with a photo and posted the photo as the treatment began. The first cycle was a breeze, and I had minimal side effects.
The second cycle hit me hard, and I quickly learned that out of state travel in a car the week after treatment was NOT a good idea.
As I continued to struggle with delayed nausea, my husband, James, was always reminding me that there was an end in sight. “You know you’re going to feel ok today and like crap by next Tuesday, then back to your current normal by the weekend. And then you only have 2 more times to feel like that, and it will be over.”
I should have taken a picture from my surgery, but I was able to document all my other milestones. Radiation therapy ended in June, and I still had 6 months of IV treatment to complete. Every three weeks I was able to cross another treatment off, and at the end of the year I was down to my last treatment.
During radiation therapy, I knew I had 20 treatments. After each one, I counted down….. 15, then 10, then single digits! I was so excited about my last treatment, I almost forgot to make a sign to hold.
I wanted some way to celebrate the end of treatment. Should I have a party? Should we just go out to dinner? James suggested we hike up to the top of a mountain and wave a victory flag. My last IV treatment was mid-December, almost exactly a year after I began treatment. I bought 2 yards of pink fabric, some ribbon, and we headed up to Hanging Rock the following Saturday. It was cold and misty, but I climbed those steps and over the rocks, and I cried. As we neared the top, a cloud bank moved in and snow flurries started to swirl about.
We nearly had the top of Hanging Rock to ourselves. I pulled out my victory flag, tied it to my walking stick, and stood atop one of the rocks, clinging to a nearby pine tree. The wind was gusty, and I was holding a 2-yard sail in my hands. I let go of the tree and reveled in the victory.
Cheryl Morgan Maxey is a two-year survivor of breast cancer. She lives in Hillsborough with her husband James a speculative fiction writer, and 2 cranky cats. She and James love to spend time exploring greenways and rail/trails on their bikes, tromping off trail in the woods, and adventuring in their kayaks. Throughout the year-long treatment for breast cancer, Cheryl remained active and continued to log miles by paddle, foot and bike. Here are the kitties, Ali Cat and Greta.
Since James is a writer, he also chronicled Cheryl’s diagnosis, then her year of treatment, on his blog. They used “Training for Cancer” as their way to announce her diagnosis on social media. A year later, he penned “Climbing above Cancer” to wrap up Cheryl’s year of treatment and her victory climb at Hanging Rock.