In January 2018, a mass measuring over 5 centimeters was found in my left breast. This was after I had been misdiagnosed in April of the previous year.
It would take another month after my diagnosis to be officially diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. By April, doctors confirmed that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, sternum, and both lungs.
I was devastated, confused, and angry about how long the cancer had been in my body after being told the mass was benign. I had no other symptoms, and I lived what I considered to be a healthy lifestyle. I found myself questioning whether I should have done more, asked more questions.
Following my diagnosis, I needed to schedule the port placement surgery for my chemotherapy. But this was still a few weeks away.
So rather than sitting at home and wait for my treatment to begin, I suggested to my boyfriend, Brent, that we should get away for a weekend.
“We should take a chemo-moon,” I practically blurted out to him.
A chemo-moon is a little getaway or moment for a person who has been diagnosed with cancer. It can be anything, from a weekend away or a shopping spree to a yoga retreat or a far drive alone.
Whatever the experience, it’s meant to help the person forget what is coming their way and enjoy their time before treatment begins.
I wanted to mentally decompress and collect myself to be in the best state of mind in order to fight as hard as I could and give it all I’ve got.
For my chemo-moon, I decided the two of us should head to Palm Springs, California. Brent and I had been there before and loved the place. Plus, it offered the kind of relaxed, fun vibe that I felt was perfect to prep me for my treatment.
I needed this time away, not just for myself, but for the both of us
Having this time to ourselves, even if only for a few days, was important to me to feel like myself one last time. I wanted to forget about what I would be facing for a long time. I wanted to mentally decompress and collect myself to be in the best state of mind in order to fight as hard as I could and give it all I’ve got.
And I wanted to spoil myself and just have a great time, not talk about cancer, not think about cancer, and live as if it wasn’t happening, even if it was just for three days.
While the chemo-moon was meant to be a getaway for me, it was also about Brent. And about us as a couple. I knew that what I was about to go through wasn’t going to only affect me — it was also going to be hard on him. I wanted to make sure he was mentally ready to fight right next to me.
Moreover, I also wanted us to feel like our old selves again. I wanted us to enjoy each other before I lost my hair and my body changed. Before the hormones took over and the worry set it in.
I was strong before — but my chemo-moon made me stronger
During my entire chemo-moon, I felt a strong sense of clarity. I felt that I was slowly preparing myself to conquer chemo and keep myself balanced and healthy during my treatment. Not to mention, the whole experience was incredibly relaxing and indulgent, from lying on the beach and checking out the great shopping to eating at some of our favorite restaurants. All of which I definitely needed.
And while I considered myself to be strong before the chemo-moon, these three days gave me an extra boost of confidence and positivity to take on this new challenging chapter of my life.
When it was time to leave Palm Springs, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it difficult. I knew what was about to come.
The very next morning was my port placement surgery, literally 12 hours after my chemo-moon had ended. While I was scared and nervous at the thought of my journey ahead, I felt equally prepared to get things started.
This experience is something I’ll always remember
My chemo-moon gave me time to collect my thoughts and fully prepare myself for what lay ahead. I highly suggest that those who have just been handed a cancer diagnosis take one, if they have the means to do so.
It also provided me with the opportunity to give my mental well-being time to recharge before going into treatment. What’s more, these are memories I will always cherish and appreciate.
For everyone out there who has just been handed a cancer diagnosis, I want you to know that you shouldn’t be ashamed to take care of your mental health prior to, during, and after your treatment.
Whatever it is that makes you feel like your best self before you fight what some consider to be the biggest battle of their lives, just remember that you deserve it.
Philecia La’Bounty, affectionately called Phil, is a 31-year-old Southern California model. Born in the snowy city of Sandy, Utah, Philecia grew up in the desert of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. She rides on the back of vintage Harleys built by her boyfriend, stole a pit bull from the Grand Canyon, and has an unbreakable, positive outlook on life: Cancer is just an injury. She will rehab and recover. You can follow Philecia on Instagram.