In early 2021, six months after her mammogram came back clear, Mary Randall was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands of the breast. Before she could begin treatment, she learned her cancer had metastasized (spread) to her abdominal lining. She’s found a way to gain control over her diagnosis through fundraising for Komen on Facebook. This is her story in her own words.
I was getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party in 2020 when I looked in the mirror and noticed one of my breasts looked really distorted. I checked further and noticed a large mass. I immediately called my gynecologist, who got me in for an appointment that afternoon. She agreed the mass was concerning and set me up for an ultrasound but not until after the holiday weekend. That is when the waiting game began.
I was worried. After being notified in past years that I had dense breasts, I had always gone in for an ultrasound, which came back clear every time. Because of COVID, 2020 was the first time I hadn’t gotten around to making an appointment for an ultrasound. My fears were soon realized. After an ultrasound, MRI and biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, and it had spread to one of my lymph nodes.
I met with my medical team to establish a treatment plan. We decided on a double mastectomy followed by radiation and possibly chemotherapy. However, before surgery could be scheduled, I wound up in the hospital with excruciating abdominal pain that my doctors initially thought was appendicitis. In surgery, they discovered that my cancer had already spread to my abdominal lining. It was now metastatic breast cancer, and surgery was off the table. The treatment plan pivoted to palliative care, which manages the pain and symptoms related to the disease.
I didn’t process my diagnosis for a long time. At first, it was because I removed myself from my emotions in order to get through it. I felt like I needed to save my family from the pain I was feeling. Over time, that has changed just because holding everything in wears you down. The support I’ve gotten from my family and friends has been incredible. My husband and I live in the Adirondacks in upstate New York and our kids are in Arizona and Georgia, so it’s been a lot of phone calls and texts as we’ve navigated through the diagnosis.
Once I came to terms with my breast cancer, I began looking for different ways to connect with people who had similar experiences. I found some wonderful support groups through social media, and I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at the Komen New England 3-Day.
Being there was life-changing in a couple of different ways. You are among a community of people who understand what you are going through and you are there watching this huge number of people dressed in amazing outfits with blisters on their feet determined to finish. It was so inspiring and invigorating.
One thing that I’ve found to be very therapeutic is fundraising, specifically through Facebook. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you feel like you have no control over anything. Hosting a fundraiser gives you some control back. It allows you to feel like you are making a difference and gives you purpose. It’s so easy to put yourself on an island where you feel alone, and sharing your story and fundraising can be very restorative. The money we are raising isn’t just for me and others in similar situations, it’s for our children and our grandchildren. We’re making a difference for the future.
It’s been 18 long months since my diagnosis. The cancer has spread to my liver and my bones. I’ve been on five different lines of treatment with minimal success in suppressing the cancer. I’m limited in my treatment options, so it’s been a constant search to find something that works. I’m on an oral chemo pill now, and I feel the best I have felt since my diagnosis. I am at a stage where I am active and can enjoy spending time with my family and friends. It is all about staying positive and adjusting to a new kind of normal.
Since launching her first Facebook fundraiser for Komen, Mary has raised more than $10,000 to fund critical breast cancer research. To learn how you can join in the mission to end breast cancer forever through fundraising, visit www.komen.org/fundraise.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.