Amber Marchese, star of The Real Housewives of New Jersey , is blogging about her second battle with cancer for PEOPLE. After surviving breast cancer in 2009, she discovered a lump, which turned out to be cancerous, in her right breast in April. Marchese will share updates on her treatment and how she is coping with this second round of the deadly disease with prayer, a positive outlook and the help of her family.
I wanted to begin by saying how writing about my experience has been a true blessing in my life. On a religious/altruistic note, being open and honest with my experience can hopefully help others that have and will go through the same experiences as me, but, paradoxically, I am getting a whole lot from all of you. Surprisingly, it has been very therapeutic for me to share a very humanistic experience.
As a Real Housewife of New Jersey, I thought I would be writing about how many pairs of shoes are in my closet, but, frankly, I just don’t give damn. The once superficial, empty gratification of buying shoes and handbags is just not my concern any longer. Trust me, I sometimes wish it was. If it is your guilty pleasure, I don’t begrudge you, I am happy for you. I still enjoy material belongings. I am being treated for cancer after all, I’m not dead! However, those items do not bring lasting happiness to my life. Instead, my children and those little moments of time that I get with them bring peace. Believe it or not, we are big homebodies. There is nothing like being in with the family. I love how each of us would rather be together as a family than with anyone in the world. I get sad to think of time in the future when they will be more interested in their friends, especially Michael being so close to 16 years old. But we are not are not at that time yet.
I have always said my job as a parent is to create this beautiful, loving life for them so they are never in a hurry to leave, and when the time comes that they do, they love coming back. Jim and I both work so hard for that to happen. I had absolutely no clue that I would enjoy being a mother so much. At one point, I thought I was never going to have children and pictured myself as corporate executive in Manhattan. I could even tell you what my corner office looked like in my mind; however, plans changed, and thank God they did. Being a mother is the only job that brings me absolute happiness, drives me absolute bat s— crazy sometimes, but is an occupational hazard that I welcome. It’s like mommy battle wounds, “hoo ra”!
We took our little ones to a park last week and hiked, biked and pretended we were some of the first settlers in America. The image of my children running ahead of Jim and me down a path in the forest will forever be in mind. Ironically, this life-threatening disease gives me perspective. It (hopefully) makes us realize that life’s treasures are not measured with material wealth, fame, nor education but the joy and love that shines out from the heart. I once lived with wanting more material wealth and education, and trust me, I still think they are important. However, I understand that type of joy is fleeting and never fully gratifying. My quest for true happiness has turned from material wealth to feeling happiness in what truly matters in life.
I normally love being interactive with all of you, and I have been getting amazing feedback, but it would not be life if I did not get several off comments. I usually ignore them, but this one got me. The comment read, “Her case was reviewed by multiple specialist (at the tumor board) because she is rich.” This could not be further from the truth. My case went to a “tumor board” because of how rare it is and the need for a targeted approach. All academic centers have “tumor boards” to discuss rare cases, it has nothing to do with income.
No one wants me to do this a third time, nor, God forbid, die from this. And, to clarify, I come from very humble beginnings. I grew up in a three-bedroom ranch in Bayville, New Jersey. My mother and dad were both in the military, until my mom became a stay at home mom and father became an electrician. My father worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day. I do not ever remember him taking days off from work.
As for me, I put myself through undergrad and graduate school and have the student loans to prove it! After graduation, I hit the pavement all throughout Manhattan searching for a job until I found one. In graduate school, my GPA was a 3.8, and that never came easy. I studied sometimes 12 hours a day, forgoing many social events because I wanted to be on honor roll. Nothing was ever handed to me.
Ahhhh I feel better now that I got that off my chest. I hear the “rich” comment a lot and can even tell you how much it bothers me. Working hard and wanting to achieve something great in life is never bad; in fact, working hard, remaining humble, genuine and kind is what I strive to do on a daily basis.
Now, let’s get back on track.
I absolutely hate being away from my children too long, so I love to bang out all of my appointments in one day. Bada boom, bada bing. My awesome California, hippy mama, Nana (aka Mom, aka Pam) comes to the rescue any time we need her. She really has been amazing to us and my kids absolutely adore “Nana.” If you haven’t figured it out, I am a bit of control freak and never left my kids with a babysitter more than a few hours. The only time I ever left my children over night was for RHONJ and my husband was on strict lockdown instructions. Being away from the kids for hours at a time makes this entire experience even rougher for me. So the downside to seeing all my doctors – my oncologist, my breast surgeon and plastic surgeon – all in a day is it makes for a really long, crappy day away from my children. Jim and I tried to make the best out of it; however, each meeting went so long we did not have time for lunch.
Each physician gave their perspective to why I relapsed and what the best treatments options are and their respective reasoning. Thankfully, I have doctors that take the time to see me, but it can be overwhelming, even with my husband supporting me. By the time I was finished and arrived at home, all I wanted to do was snuggle on the couch with my children and watch a movie. Okay, watch a movie with a big bowl of popcorn, tons of butter and enough salt to melt 10,000 slugs. This mama doesn’t mess around.
Someone said to me, “I am proud of you that you are proactive with your health.” This comment made me take pause. I asked, “Do you mean some people are not?” The Person replied back, “Yes, I know some that would ignore a lump.” This just blew my mind. Please, please, please, the young and the elderly, if you find a lump or anything that is abnormal for your body, do NOT ignore it. Make that appointment as soon you can and do not make excuses that your life is just too busy. God forbid, something is wrong, you could quite possibly not have a life to be busy in.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you are not a ticking time bomb. You do not need to rush into any treatment in order to save your life. Please, understand your diagnosis, know and feel comfortable with your doctors, understand the treatment that is presented to you, then take a day or two to let it absorb in. Then make your decisions. Cancer does not rapidly proliferate; it multiplies and grows over a course of time, not in a few days or even weeks.
RELATED VIDEO: Sandra Lee Opens up about Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Until next week, I will leave you with a quote.
“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begin the disruption of peace of world.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
As always, love to all and thank you for reading my blogs. I cannot thank you enough for your support and I would always love to hear from you.
God bless you all,