Everyone remembers that moment when they learned that they have breast cancer. October 17, 2012 at 4:25pm. I was 42 years old with two boys under the age of ten. My life changed forever in that moment. I anticipated a tough battle against this dreaded disease, but I was overwhelmed with the positive things that have happened along the way.
As I spoke to my doctors about treatment plans, they kept referencing five year survival rates. Five years? My boys would not even be driving in five years. I wanted to know which procedures were necessary to have a 40 year survival rate. I decided that I wanted to stick to my plan of living until my 80’s. I began to plan my 40 year survivor party: 10/17/52, on the beach, with all of my friends and family. It will be the party of a lifetime!
I am BRAC 2 positive, just like Angelina Jolie. I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. The first week was tough, but I was back to walking three miles per day within three weeks. I wasn’t prepared for my pathology report after surgery. The doctors anticipated a small tumor and a Stage I diagnosis, but it turned out to be Stage IIIA. My cancer is not as common and very sneaky, but fortunately it’s very treatable. I was disappointed that my fight would be harder than anticipated. I was most afraid of how my boys would be impacted by my losing my hair from chemo. Never once was I was deterred from my original plan, a 40 year survivor party. I have too much to live for to let the bad days overshadow the good ones.
Next came 16 weeks of chemo, two surgeries and six weeks of daily radiation. It was a tough journey, but it was full of overwhelming acts of kindness from friends, family and strangers. I encourage my fellow warriors to accept help with everything so that your focus can be on fighting your battle. My mom retired early and left my dad at home to stay with my family after every chemo treatment. My friends set up a care calendar (carecalendar.org), delivering meals to my family while I recovered from surgery. My favorite aunt sent me a card every week while I was in treatment. Friends set up play dates for my boys so they could enjoy normalcy and fun on my hardest days. If you want to help a friend diagnosed with breast cancer, I encourage you to offer specific help: “I can take your child to practice on Wednesday” or “I can cut your grass every week” rather than, “Let me know if I can help.” We are often too tired to figure out how you can help, so make an offer that we can’t refuse and follow through.
I completed treatment on June 4, 2013. I am thrilled to be done! I made it! I have NED (no evidence of disease) but I prefer to call it CANCER FREE!!
I started blogging as “The Breast Cancer Warrior” early in my journey. My goal is to inspire others to look for the positive side of every challenge in life and to ensure that no one feels alone in their battle against breast cancer. The breast cancer warriors that follow my Facebook page (search for The Breast Cancer Warrior) inspire me every day. We share stories of success and talk about our challenges. We know we are not alone in our fight.
I’m working on an exciting project designed to create hope for breast cancer warriors and I need your help. I am looking for 40 year breast cancer survivors. If you know one, please contact me through my website: www.breastcancerwarrior.org I can’t wait to share this project when it is complete!
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, know you are not alone. There are breast cancer warriors around the world ready to support you. Look for the positives in your journey…the rainbows in the storm of breast cancer. I have found that I appreciate the little things more like: the way the sun warms my face as it peeks over the trees early in the morning, my boys’ laughter, or the smell of rain on a spring day. I have an “Ire” attitude, borrowed from the island of Jamaica, it means “No problem.” The hassles and obstacles in life that once seemed overwhelming are nothing compared to my battle with breast cancer. I also discovered how many people love and care about me, which is something that I will never take for granted.
As you face your battle with breast cancer, keep in mind that the journey will be harder than you want it to be but it will be easier than you fear it to be. You have the strength within you to do it…you are a breast cancer warrior!
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.