Royce Epstein, Mohawk Group’s Director of Design Segment, continues to share her story and journey with our community. In August of 2014, at the age of 45, Royce was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, she gives a behind-the-scenes look into her everyday fight. Her insight and outlook are an inspiration. This is part 2 of ‘R Is For Resilient’ published previously.
It’s been a little over two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With it being October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seems appropriate for me to write an update on my experience. The last piece I wrote on this topic was done solely to try to help me heal from my intense ordeal. However, it was published on the Susan G. Komen website and I realized afterwards that my story could help others too: help with prevention, and help those also healing.
I am grateful that we at Mohawk are partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation in support of finding a cure for breast cancer. I can’t wait for that day. They do amazing work and I have gotten to know their team well, mostly from my visit to their HQ and our time together at the Race for the Cure (OK, I walked and didn’t run). They are truly and deeply supportive of survivors and thrivers (people living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer), and we all share the same desire – to eradicate breast cancer from this world. Please consider donating to this cause. It affects everyone.
I wrote in my last piece that my cancer experience was very lonely, and it still is. No matter how many people I meet, talk to, and hug over tears, it is still my own fate that I am coping with. The torment and fear have not subsided after two years and therefore have left me living on the edge. I have no confirmation that cancer is completely gone. I have no idea if it will come back. Every doctor’s appointment, every blood test, every mammogram and ultrasound – they leave me panic-stricken, bracing myself for bad news.
The bad news hasn’t come since treatment, thank goodness. But other things have popped up. I have since become a diabetic, which comes with strange side effects. And when I had my genetic testing done two years ago to look for cancer gene mutations, I didn’t have any related to breast cancer. But it did show a variant for something related to pancreatic cancer. And so in a few weeks I will be undergoing an MRI of my pancreas and a colonoscopy to serve as my first baseline screening. Hopefully the doctor will see nothing of concern. But of course I am concerned. I have had three tumors removed from my body, two of them cancerous, and I can’t help but to be back living on that edge.
Worry aside, some other things have happened to me over the last two years. For starters, I have developed a skewed sense of time. Part of me has slowed down, my body is physically unable to keep up with my brain, and I have learned to accept that I need to rest when tired and not push myself to do all that I want to do. Some of this is the result of multiple surgeries, radiation, and medication. I accept that I may never get all of my energy back. However, I also have learned firsthand that life is too short and could end at any time, and so I feel an intense pressure to get things done. A lot of things. I work all the time. I don’t have clear boundaries anymore between work and life, it’s all connected and I have so much I want to do in my time on earth. Besides having a meaningful career, I want to make music. I want to write. I want to create art. And most importantly I want to have meaningful relationships. And yet I am tired. Physically tired. Emotionally tired. I am hopeful that this will get better over time; I am trying to be patient.
In commemoration of my two-year cancerversary, I got my third tattoo this month, on my right wrist. My first tattoo was BRAVE, placed on my left wrist, to remind me to stay brave when I started my journey two years ago. One year ago, I got the Italian word AVANTI on my leg to remind me to keep moving forward. And most recently, I added VALOR. Valor means to have courage in the face of danger – my latest reminder for the next part of the journey.