Breast Cancer … not a word that was even on my radar when I was 29. I don’t think it’s something that’s on most people’s minds unless maybe they have a family history, which I did not. That all changed December 1999, a couple of weeks before my 30th birthday. I was taking a shower and felt a lump that I hadn’t noticed before. My first thoughts were, “What is that and how have I not felt that before?” It was that noticeable, seemingly showing up out of nowhere. Now I am not a person who typically panics about things, but I can say that I was nervous for sure. My husband was leaning more towards the panic side.
That same day I called and made an appointment with my doctor. Thankfully they were able to get me in right away, the very next day, which was a Friday. I explained to the doctor what I had found and he tried to reassure me that it was probably nothing. He performed an exam and confirmed what I felt. There was for sure a lump there. He sent me immediately over to have a mammogram done, which I did. From there, they told me they were going to do an ultrasound. Once that was finished I was told that I needed to schedule an appointment with a surgeon to have a biopsy performed, that they had confirmed there was a mass and a biopsy would tell us what it was. I walked over to Dr. Tony’s office to schedule the biopsy. They said they could get me in the following Monday, so the biopsy was now scheduled.
Monday comes and I have the biopsy and that all goes well. Dr. Tony tells my husband and me that we should have the results in a few days. He is great at explaining what to expect and that he will call as soon as the results come in. So we wait, but not for long. On Wednesday we get the call to come in, the results ready. I knew by his face when he walked into the room that it was not going to be a best-case scenario, that it was indeed worst-case scenario. He was very caring and wonderful at dealing with our shock of the news. He explained that our next course of action would be to perform a lumpectomy and fully remove the tumor … yes now it was a tumor … not a lump, not a mass, but a cancerous tumor. So that was scheduled for Friday.
My husband and I go to the car and let out the tears that we were holding back. What just happened? Was I really just diagnosed with Breast Cancer? I have 2 young boys (6 & 4) and I’m only 29. Isn’t this something older people get? My number one fear was what if I didn’t make it, would my boys even remember me!? You name it and it probably went through our minds.
Friday comes, the lumpectomy is performed, my margins are clear and nothing is found in my lymph nodes. So Wow! In a week’s time, I found a lump, had a mammogram, had an ultrasound, a biopsy, Cancer diagnosis, and a lumpectomy. To say it was a whirlwind is an understatement. On the positive side, it didn’t give me a lot of time to stress about all the steps because they were all so close together. But now what?
The answer to that question came in a referral to the MSTI clinic to meet with two oncologists. My course of treatment would include both chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Kreisle would be my chemo oncologist and Dr. Bolendar would handle my radiation. Now I am a doer, so by this point, I was ready to get this show on the road and kill this cancer that was inside of me. I soon learned that the tumor was triple negative and aggressive. I would start with Chemo and have a combination of two drugs, Adriamycin and Cytoxin. Once I finished with Chemo I would transition into daily radiation. I was on board for whatever I needed to do to beat this and be around for my boys.
My first chemo treatment was definitely a learning experience. Nothing can prepare you for seeing a nurse in full hazmat gear walking your way to administer your treatment. In my mind I was like, “Hey, where’s my hazmat gear?!” Or to see the sign in the bathroom that reminds you to flush twice because of the chemicals. Yep, that’s what’s going inside of me, but it’s also killing the cancer that is trying to kill me.
Throughout my chemo treatment, I stayed fairly “healthy.” I maintained my weight, was sick, but usually only for one day, was able to continue working and helping my husband to take care of our boys. I lost all my hair, but found out I don’t have any weird birthmarks or bumps on my head. :0) Once I completed all my chemo treatments, I began my daily trips to Nampa to have my radiation treatments. This went on for 6 weeks so by the end my energy level had really diminished, but thankfully I pushed through!
Finally! Treatments are done and a somewhat normal life can resume. I can say that as scary as the treatments were, being finished with them was just as scary for me. At least while I was going through the treatments I knew something was actively happening to the cancer in my body. But now that it’s finished, what’s going to happen? Is it going to grow back? All thoughts that I tried not to give a lot of time or energy to were present.
Throughout all of this my driving force was my faith, prayer, and the desire to be here to see my boys grow up, graduate, get married, have grandkids. I was so blessed that everything went the way it did. That my doctors listened to me and got me in for testing so quickly, that I had a great surgeon who did a fantastic job at removing the tumor. That I had two great oncologists who did everything in their power to treat and support me and my family. That I had a whole team behind me praying and that I believe in a God who heals!
This all happened almost 19 years ago! I’m happy to say that I’m a breast cancer survivor! I’ve been able to see my boys grow up, graduate from high school and college, see both of them find relationships and one of them get married. There are no grandkids yet and that’s ok … for now. ?. I’ve been able to live a life that I wasn’t sure I was going to after that lump was felt.
Everyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has a story, an individual journey … this was mine. No two are the same. Everybody handles the diagnosis in their own perfect way … no right or wrong way to handle it. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would encourage everyone to perform their self-breast exams, go to your annual checkups, get your mammograms if you are eligible. Don’t ignore your body! Early detection of any diagnosis is key.
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