My story started in October 2015. I had my first Mammogram on Friday, October 16, 2015. Just your standard 1st mammogram. The technician told me that because they had nothing to go on that I shouldn’t be alarmed if I get called back in for a 2nd one. Well, it was a day or two after Halloween when they finally called me back in for another mammogram. A different technician, this time, she was just as warm and caring as the first one. She must’ve taken what felt like 100 different images of both breasts in all kinds of positions. Finally, she left the room for eternity (probably 10 minutes) and said they needed to take me to the ultrasound room. After 45 min-1 hour of multiple images and no one talking – just complete silence – the radiologist came in to talk to me. He said they found several spots on both breasts and he wanted to send me for a biopsy just to be sure. I ended up having two different biopsies on November 16th. The needle biopsy was the most uncomfortable and painful. The next day at work was very stressful just waiting on the call about the results.
Finally, the nurse from the day before called me. She sounded so sad. I could tell what she was going to tell me before she said it. Both biopsies came back positive for cancer. She went into detail about the kinds of cancer, but I honestly zoned out. I was trying to keep my composure at work and not break down on the phone. After that call, I immediately left work and headed to my mom’s. I called my aunt and told her first. She headed to my mom’s too. We both knew how my mom was not going to handle this well at all. You see, my mom had breast cancer almost 10 years ago. I believe my mom was initially more devastated by the news than I was. I think I was just still in shock.
The initial consultation that following week with my Oncology team was when everything set in for me. I cried many, many tears that day. After some back and forth with surgeons, I opted to have immediate reconstruction after my double mastectomy. The first attempt at the surgery in January is when they found out I was allergic to the blue dye that’s injected into you to find the cancerous lymph nodes. I went into Anaphylactic Shock and spent a few days in ICU. No surgery that day. Being tied down to the bed and a tube down your throat was devastating and just outright frustrating and maddening. I finally successfully had surgery on February 16. My surgery for my port was a few days before I started Chemo. March 15th is when I started Chemotherapy and rang my bell on June 28th. On August 30th I had my 2nd reconstruction surgery and received implants. (So grateful the spacers are gone) And next week on October 5th I found out when my radiation starts. All of my family, friends, co-workers and employers, and some past customers, were all very supportive. It humbled me to see the outpour of love and concern. I just participated in my first Susan G Komen #RaceforACure at Heritage Park in Simpsonville SC. I plan on continuing to do it every year while I can.
• What advice would you give to someone else who just received a diagnosis? – Take deep breaths. You should not be alone when you receive the news. It’s ok if you cry and get mad. No, it’s not fair at all. Don’t try to look for reasons. Sometimes no matter how healthy you are – Cancer will find you. Just know that with today’s technology that a positive diagnosis is not an immediate death sentence. Your life is forever about to change. There’s a silver lining in everything if you look for it.
• How has having breast cancer changed your outlook? – I’m stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I try not to feel sorry for myself. It could’ve been worse.
• What gives you strength during treatment? – My loved ones and my job. Knowing that I had my job to keep me busy and focused help to not dwell too much outside of what was necessary. I continued with work because I wanted my kids to see me go on in the most normal way possible.
• What support have you found especially helpful? – My boyfriend Chris has been there unconditionally. He knows the changes my body went through and he still loves me anyways. Also my Mother. She had already been through it. So while our treatments weren’t the same, she still had helpful tips to tell me. Find a support group whether online, or in your area. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are like me, it’s hard. Don’t take your support for granted. It’s easy to do it because they are there so much you just expect it.
• What can co-survivors do to help? – Just love the person. Be there for them. Keep your expectations to a minimum (if at all). Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.