In March of 2016, my family and I found ourselves in new territory – a place no one wants to be but many find themselves. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As hard as it is to walk this journey yourself, it is difficult on your family as well. My mom had to undergo intense chemotherapy prior to having a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgeries. Those were difficult times watching her suffer through all of the things chemo does to your body. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was to cut her hair because it was falling out. But that day I felt God begin to carry me and give me the strength to do the things I needed to do. As one would do, I began to ask questions about what I needed to do for myself since her diagnosis. I was told since my mom was not diagnosed until she was 57 that protocol would be for me to start screening at 47, but normal screenings begin at 40 so there was nothing I needed. When I went for my yearly physical my doctor thought otherwise and sent me for a mammogram. Apparently your first screening typically requires a second just to get a good baseline. From January to July I had three mammograms all which came back clear. But the technician who did the last one was slightly alarmed by something which prompted me to ask my other doctor at my next appointment. She immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound and they quickly scheduled me for a biopsy. My thought was this cannot be happening; my mom just finished this process, not to mention I have had 3 mammograms this year! But, unfortunately, we did not receive the good report we had hoped for and I too was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 – only 18 months after my mom was diagnosed.
One thing I learned really fast was you do not want to be the medical case that leaves all of your physicians wondering what they missed. It is never comforting to walk into an office and have them say, “Oh, you are the one everyone has been talking about.” After much research and discussion with my surgeon I reached the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy as well. It was the only decision I could get a peace about. I have had so many things to help me through this journey. Christ is my number one help along with close family and friends. I’ll never forget one day a friend texted to ask how I was, to which I replied the old saying is when it rains it pours, and I feel like I’m in a flood and I need a boat. She quickly reminded me it was a good thing I knew The Captain. God has truly seen my family through dark days. One day I was trying to process everything we had gone through to get to the point of my diagnosis and God sweetly reminded me He is always one step ahead of me. Because had my mom not been diagnosed it would have most likely been a much different outcome for me. As she and I discussed one day how overwhelmed she was thinking about me going through this same process she had just gone through, I said, “Mom, your diagnosis saved my life.” A few days later she called me back and said, “I would go through everything again two times for you.” As a mom of two healthy thriving girls myself I know I would do the same for them.
I have learned you cannot always change your circumstances, but you can choose how you respond to them. I had two sets of young eyes watching my response to these situations. My older daughter can wear my shoes now. One day through this journey she came to get some of my shoes. I realized that day not only is she wearing my shoes she’s literally following my footsteps in this process. After having five major surgeries in six months there were days it was a struggle to get out of bed. My best advice would be push as hard as you can to live your life as normal as possible. I had always tried to live an active lifestyle and feel this also contributed to my recovery. My reasoning for working out has now changed because I was able to recover from these surgeries so much faster than expected. I was blessed to be able to run a 5K race with my girls in April and I’m preparing to run another one in November with my husband. When you receive a cancer diagnosis, it does not just affect you. My husband has stepped up to the plate like none other. He has sat through many appointments and in many hospital waiting rooms, and been a tremendous nurse. He had to ensure life carried on for our girls. I can truly say the only way I have gotten through the last year was by God’s grace, my family, and my close friends.
There’s a song by Big Daddy Weave “If I told you my story” – some of the lyrics are “If I told you my story, you would hear hope; If I told you my story, you would hear love that never gave up.” I was extremely hesitant in sharing my personal story, but I hope my story can encourage others who are fighting the fight.