#IAmKomenAustin – My Life With Cancer

By: Diane Castillo 

I have always participated in different events that raise money for those with cancer. Cancer runs in both sides of the family. It’s a small world when you tell someone you have cancer.I found out my paternal grandmother had breast cancer and had to get a double mastectomy. She tends not to tell people of what illness she is dealing with. She’s a very strong woman and is now in remission. My paternal grandfather passed away of brain cancer, it will be 18 years he has been gone. I miss his laughter, smiles and hugs. My mother passed away from breast cancer and double lung pneumonia, it’s been 22 years she has been gone. I also found out my maternal aunt also had breast cancer, she is in remission.

I won’t forget when I told family members I had cancer. Some just said, “ok” or “I’m sorry,” and that was the last I heard from them. My only family support is my paternal grandmother. Other support I get are from less than a handful of friends and from a BRBC nurse navigator named Jessica Garrison. I met her when I was getting treatment at Brack’s Shivers Cancer Center, we still stay in touch with one another.

diane castillo 2

Photo of Diane Castillo

I didn’t know what to expect from treatment,  before, during and after. I went online to gather as much information as I could. At first, it seemed overwhelming. I took notes in how to pack a chemo bag. I learned to have items in it to keep me busy during chemo and packed healthy snacks.

One of the websites I stumbled on was the Susan G. Komen® website through Facebook. Everyday, I would read, take notes and print any information I wanted to understand more. When I would go to chemo, I was alone. My paternal grandmother did her chemo alone. I figure if she could do it, so could I. While in chemo, I would read more on staying healthy while going through chemo, read positive quotes and read more on make up. I didn’t know that besides hair loss on your head, you can lose your eyebrows and eyelashes. Putting fake eyelashes on is not a easy task. I also lightly “painted” my eyebrows with eyebrow powder,  I can say I can do eyebrows like a pro. Many would think make up is the least worry of a cancer patient, for me, the normal was fixing my hair and face every morning.

I wanted to still have that same “normalcy.”

I also purchased several wigs when I could. I enjoyed looking different with the wigs. Everyday was a wig day. I wore wigs when I left the house. Otherwise, I wore pretty bandanas. Bandanas that I bought more than ten years ago at WalMart for 25 cents as they were on sale, who knew I was going to use them!

Finding out I have cancer has changed my life. The old saying, “you don’t know you have strength until you are at your weakest.”

My weakness was not knowing what happens with cancer. I decided I needed to educate myself. With the knowledge I found I realized I’m stronger than before.
Sadly, while dealing with cancer I became distance from friends and family members but not of my fault. I realize those who love you will be there for you no matter what. Instead of being seen as a loving humorous person I was being seen as STRIKEN WITH CANCER.

I’m not cancer and cancer isn’t me.

I’m still that same loving and humorous person. Besides taking care of myself, I have a young daughter. I won’t forget when I told her I have breast cancer. Out of her mouth she said, “we WILL beat cancer together.” I bawled my eyes out. My tween created a group in school with the school counselor for students, who have parents who passed away and those who had became victims of cancer. I asked my tween what made her create the group, she said she noticed too many classmates losing their parents to cancer and other chronic illnesses. The classmates came to school looking hurt and confused. She would talk to them and promise not to tell anyone of their private conversations.  It not only helped those students but helped her as well. I’m the only surviving parent. I lost my husband seven years ago due to a chronic heart illness.

Even in death and in life the world still turns. We are in charge of our lives and we make life what it is. I decided that I still enjoy being an advocate and volunteering in different organizations. It feels good to give back to the community.

I can not wait to kick cancer to the curb. I’m ready to live a more healthier life without cancer!

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