My Breast Cancer Journey
My name is Lydia Leftwich and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor. 2003….it brought many challenges for me…I was working full-time as well as a part-time job, I was still dealing with the untimely death of my mother in November of 2002, I was going through a divorce, I was having a home built (the builder was way behind schedule) & I was turning 40! Needless to say to add insult to injury to all of the above….. I was diagnosed in August of 2003 at the age of 39 with Stage 2 Breast Cancer, no family history and a non-smoker. I was completely shocked when I heard the words come out of my Surgeon’s mouth! I sat in the office with one of my best friends as she held my hand with tears streaming down my face….the only thing that I could think of at the time was, “God…I don’t want to die….what will happen to my kids”? After composing myself….my girlfriend and I looked at each other and said “it is what it is, and what is the next step”? It is what it is became my new mantra! I knew at that time, that this would be the fight of my life and I had no other choice but to win. Even though my children were no longer in my household and were “adult” children, I had to fight for them because if I died, who else would they have? So after all of the pre-surgery items, etc…October 18, 2003 exactly 1 month after my 40th birthday, I was admitted to Doctors Community Hospital for a Mastectomy of my right breast, removal of 18 lymph nodes and reconstructive surgery. The surgery started around 6:00AM and I believe I made it to the recovery room around 8:00 – 9:00PM that evening. After surgery I started chemotherapy in January of 2004. I had 6 months of chemo and 5 1/2 weeks of radiation treatments. During all of my treatments, I never felt sorry for myself, I felt God had plans for me and that he was preparing me to use my personal experience and to try to help others. I just always felt that once I got through all of this, I needed to do something personally to try to help end Breast Cancer because I didn’t want other women to have to experience what I experienced when I told my children about my diagnoses. My heart ached because not only was I trying to deal with what was going on with me, I was trying to deal with their reactions as well! I didn’t want other women’s lives turned topsy-turvy and I certainly did not like the fact that I now had to worry about whether or not my sister, my daughter, my granddaughter, my nieces, my aunts, my cousins or any other woman that I may know or come across in my lifetime, that they too, may be diagnosed with Breast Cancer as well! When you’re diagnosed with Breast Cancer, it emotionally affects you and your entire circle of friends, family and co-workers. So with all of those thoughts in mind, in 2006 I went to the Komen website and searched for volunteer information and came across The Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure. I was already familiar with the race and had previously participated in it, I was always an advocate for breast cancer awareness and would always participate and donate to whatever was going on, but now, the race took on a different meaning. It was now personal and I felt that I personally needed to get involved to give back because without Komen bringing Breast Cancer to the forefront and making people aware of this disease, I may not be here today. So I started volunteering for pre-race events, registering people for the Race for the Cure and now 8 years later, I’m still here, but now, I’m also Fund Raising to help raise funds to find a cure….it’s been fabulous to be able to stand as a breast cancer survivor and spread the word of how important early detection is, (it saved my life) how important it is for women to do self-breast exams, how important it is for women to get their mammograms, how important it is for women to “know their normal”, but the total bottom line goal for us all should be is to be able to find a cure and unfortunately, without funds, we can’t find a cure. This personal journey of mine has been one that I cannot even begin to describe. Many people are in our lives for “seasons & reasons” and God truly blessed me when he put my girlfriend Barbara in my life….she could be a poster child for co-survivors, and although her “season & reason” may have come and gone, I will NEVER forget what she did for me and my children….she was their rock and there are so many other friends, family members and co-workers that truly were co-survivors as well, they made a truly difficult situation very bearable. After being diagnosed with Breast Cancer your perspective of life completely changes…I no longer “sweat the small stuff”. I refuse to let ANYONE neither take my joy nor take me out of “my normal”. God spared my life and I am going to continue to enjoy every day that he allows me to have and to me that is PRICELESS!