Ani Velasco is a breast cancer survivor who went through multiple health procedures. During her journey, she learned how to embrace her path to live a happier and more fulfilled life.
I survived it all
In January 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a bilateral mastectomy, did chemotherapy and radiotherapy, went through breast reconstruction, and took hormonal therapy for 10 years. I survived it all.
Fear of recurrence
At the moment I feel well. I always carry some fear of recurrence, especially because I had metastases and had to remove several ganglia. I always carry that fear that something might have escaped from the Doctors and is growing in some hidden corner of my organism. I was very afraid of dying but I overcame it by drawing on my willingness to live and believing that I was going to be fine. I tapped into joy, faith, and lots of support from loved ones. I always found the strength to fight, laugh, and talk.
How I managed some of my side effects
Looking back, I can see clearly now that there were things that made it simpler for me to overcome this hard phase of life. And I want to share them with all of you who are currently going through the same. I had all types of side effects: fatigue, sleeping problems, anxiety, weight gain, intimacy issues, lack of appetite, and uncontrollable food cravings for unhealthy things that comforted me.
It was so difficult to eat. The smell of food made me nauseous and I lacked of strength to face a simple soup or meat or fish plate. Even picking up the cutlery was heavy. Just thinking about cutting the food made me tired. Oh, how much easier would it be to open a box of ice cream and just eat one tiny spoon at a time? Easy to swallow, no need to chew. I found that for me to eat, food had to be cut into super small pieces and that the plate had to be half-full. In this way, I could focus on the process of eating bit by bit without getting overwhelmed, and that made all the difference.
The pain was worst after I had the mastectomy. It was so strong that despite being exhausted, I couldn't fall asleep. I had to sleep almost sitting up. I found out that healing touch and massage helped me a lot. For almost a month, a therapist helped me fall asleep by giving me massages on my back. Her fairy hands appeared at my house at 8.30 pm and stroked me until I fell asleep. It felt so good!
I started psychotherapy. My intent wasn’t to cry, to look at my past, or to understand why this happened to me. I wanted to learn to like myself more, to look for what really made me happy. I started doing psychotherapy before I started to feel sad. I think that was my solution to avoid depression. It was a fantastic help once I found the right therapist to support me. I did not get it right the first time, but I ended up finding a therapist with whom I had enormous empathy.
Cancer made me realize that it’s time to change
I also realized that I had nothing to lose. That despite those difficult moments, I had reasons to be happy, to smile (sometimes even without even noticing it), and to enjoy every minute of my day. Even nowadays, when I think about it, I miss some of those moments, when I was really living in the present moment. Those moments allowed me to collect memories that I used as my daily vitamins. I felt strong being so fragile. I ate without thinking I didn't want to eat. I smiled without noticing it. I laughed when for some people I should have been crying. I lived every day without thinking that I had another day to live. I knew that many people would miss me if I was gone, and that gave me the strength to fight to make sure I’d continue to be here for them.
I was able to see a different side of myself and I changed many things in my day-to-day. I changed so many things in my life without making any effort. I just thought that what happened to me was a wake-up call for a new direction in my life. I felt that it was not the time to be angry or upset. It was just time to change.
It's possible to turn things around
In conclusion, what I would like to pass on as a message to all those, who are suffering at the moment and who still haven't managed to find their way, is that with a team of doctors who take care of us and with the support of our friends and family, it is definitely possible to turn things around.