February 5th 2016, the day that changed my life. On that day, I was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer.
I would have never imagined in one million years that my name would ever be associated with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Like most women with breast cancer, it started with a lump that I thought nothing of.
We got it checked out within a month of finding it and I wasn’t the least bit worried.
From one diagnostic test to the next, worry started to creep in, but still I never imagined the outcome.
Less than 24 hours after the biopsy of the suspicious lump, there was the phone call from the radiologist who performed the biopsy informing me that my results came back positive for invasive ductal carcinoma.
From that point there were multiple doctor’s appointments, lots of blood work, and many tests. I went from having 2 physicians prior to the diagnosis, to adding 5 more specialists.
I was happily married, with 2 healthy children, working in my career as a nurse with a great job. My husband had just completed his undergrad degree and we spent most of our free time planning our next vacation.
About 1 month after all the diagnostic testing ended, it was time for treatment to begin.
A chemotherapy regimen that lasted 20 weeks was ordered, followed by surgery, then 6 weeks of radiation. I will not be ready for breast reconstruction until next year.
I see now why it is called a breast cancer journey.
2016 has been filled with lots of changes. Emotional changes, as well as tons of physical changes. The same chemo drugs that are used to kill cancer cells also kill healthy cells.
I literally went from being a somewhat healthy, normal, 37 year old who only took ibuprofen for an occasional headache, to having the strength of an 80 year old, with prescriptions for more than 13 different medications, most of which to counteract the side effects from chemo.
October 2016 was my fist time participating in the breast cancer race. Sure I had heard of the annual race, but never gave it much thought. It actually wasn’t until a dear friend informed me that she would be participating on my behalf that I gave it a second thought.
I felt that if she was going to do it for me, I needed to do it for myself, and also for other women who were still suffering from the disease, and especially for those who lost their fight with breast cancer.
So there I was with a few close family members starting my first race. To say I felt humbled, encouraged, and proud to be there was an understatement. To look out at the sea of pink reminded me that I truly was a survivor and that they were many brave women out there like me that were still fighting. We all had a story, we all had families, and we all had a connection.
I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of men and women through the Army Corp of Engineers, about my breast cancer journey. When I was asked to speak, I felt nothing but honor that there were people out there that wanted to hear my story.
Many thoughts ran through my mind trying to figure out exactly what people would want to hear. Should I include the good, the bad, and the ugly?
After giving it some thought and consulting with a few people, I decided to speak on those questions that I got so often.
- How were diagnosed?
- What were your children’s reaction?
- How did your husband support you?
- Was losing your hair scary?
I wanted people to be educated about the facts of the disease and the effects on the person diagnosed as well as their families. Most importantly, I wanted people to know that it is an extremely rough road, but there was hope.
August 19th, 2016, I became cancer free.
It didn’t really hit me right away that I no longer had breast cancer. Surgery was a success and the good news was shared with my family who were in the waiting room.
About 2 days after being discharged from the hospital the breast surgeon called with my final pathology report, and shared with me what she described as the “best possible outcome”. All my margins were clear, and that all the cancer was removed.
It was that moment that I realized that I was now a “survivor” and no longer had breast cancer. I could now refer to breast cancer in the past tense.
Within a couple weeks of my diagnosis I knew that God allowed this to happen to me as my testimony, and not just for me, but for me to help others.
Let me be clear that I wasn’t happy, and honestly wasn’t up to the challenge back in February. My life as I knew it was about to change, and at that time I wasn’t sure exactly how, nor did I know what to do to prepare for it.
What I do know now is that 1 in 8 women will be affected by this disease. Using my experience from my journey, I would like to be able to help and encourage those women and their families through this difficult time.