Samantha Noon (45) shares how the phrase her surgeon used all the time “It is what it is” soon became her mantra.
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in April 2016. By the time the lump was removed by means of a bilateral mastectomy, the diagnosis had changed to Stage 2 as the tumour was almost double the size they had initially measured. A tiny spot was found on one of my nodes as well; so even though my surgeon had removed all the cancer, I was advised that I needed preventative chemotherapy.
I was in hospital for 18 days for the bilateral mastectomy, followed by two more unexpected stays as my wounds split open at different times; they needed to be cleaned and stitched again. I reminded myself of what I had heard my surgeon say on numerous occasions: ‘It is what it is’, and accepted it and moved on. My fourth visit was to have a port inserted for my chemotherapy.
I learned throughout my chemo that everyone has a different journey. I made a conscious decision that I would be just fine and that chemo would be a breeze. I decided that the God whom I serve would get me through this with a smile on my face – and He did!
With this mindset, my faith and the thousands of people praying for me made all the difference to my journey. Never once did I feel depressed or down. When I started the ‘Red Devil’, I was fortunate enough to not get sick once, for which I am tremendously grateful for as this isn’t the norm. I had made the decision that I would shave my hair off before it got the chance to fall out in patches. I hosted a party and invited my close family to be there when I shaved my head. Together with nine family members, six of them shaved their heads too and the other three trimmed their hair shorter. It was a day of note! That night, I thanked God that I have a round head. I had gone from having the thickest bush of hair to nothing! I loved it! I embraced it! I looked and felt great!
The oncology nurses at Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital were really awesome. I always felt cared for and comfortable. It seems to be the one part of the treatment that we tend to forget. They are the glue that binds everything together. They deal with the doctors, listen to all of our fears and victories. When we complete our treatment – they celebrate with us!
My family life stayed the same, thankfully. As did my work. I had a team of colleagues who showed their concern and offered support all the time. When I didn’t have chemo, I was at work. It gave me a sense of being ‘normal’. I needed to be at work. I needed to do household chores. I needed to drive every day. Ultimately, I needed to be independent and not let cancer take over my life. Also, I needed to show my family, especially my 12- and five-year-old children, that I was okay.
The radiation was the easiest part. I still have the scars, although they’re fading slowly. I have no emotional scars though. My faith, family and friends were my rock! Cancer has given me a reason to live life to the fullest. Now, I have a new lease on life and it’s about giving back. I hosted my first Cuppa for CANSA this February, and plan to host more of them. It’s in giving back that I feel the most alive. I still have to face reconstructive surgery, and I’ll be on tamoxifen for the next 10 years, but whatever happens I am prepared, as my surgeon says, ‘It is what it is.’