Well, I will start with saying that I am one of the estimated 3.1 million breast cancer survivors. I never thought that cancer would be a part of my story. It has been a part of my story for the last 9 years.
My cancer journey began in November of 2008. This was the first time I noticed I had a lump in my breast. I call it a lump but it literally felt like a rock. It felt like a horrible bruise. I made a phone call to my gynecologist and saw the nurse practitioner the next day. When I saw her, it was horrible; she was rude and did not even want to feel the lump. All she kept saying was I was too young for cancer and I didn’t have a family history so I should not be worried. However, I was worried. She sent me on my way. No follow up testing.
For the next few months, this lump became more painful and grew in size. In February of 2009, I made another appointment to see the doctor, hoping I would not get the same nurse. When I got to the room the same nurse came in. The first thing she told me was “I thought I told you this lump was nothing.” I began to tell her that it had begun to hurt and had grown in size. She would not feel it or send me to get an ultrasound. All she told me was to stop worrying because cancer did not hurt and I was only 30. She acted as though you had to be old to get cancer, and that 30 was too young.
Finally, in June, I called my family doctor and explained to him what had been going on those last few months. He told me to come in the next day and he would take a look. I saw him the next day. After he felt the lump he immediately sent me down for an ultrasound and mammogram. After the tests were done the radiologist came in and told me that my doctor would be calling me with the results and that he was glad I kept up on the lump. Of course, I called the doctor after that instead of waiting. I was told that I needed to see a surgeon. My lump was very suspicious and needed to be checked out.
I saw a surgeon the following week and was scheduled for a biopsy. I was told on June 24, 2009, that I had cancer. Talk about life changing moment and scary. I was a single mother of 2 young boys, I could not have cancer. I did not have time for cancer. How was I going to tell my boys? After being told you have cancer, it does not matter how bad it is or is not, it still sucks. A million things go through your head. Telling my kids was the worst part.
After my diagnosis, I had one week to decide which type of surgery I wanted. I either have a mastectomy or I have the lump removed and do radiation after that. I work I surgery so I knew what radiation does to the skin and did not want to go that route. So I chose the mastectomy thinking, at the time that was the easier choice. On July 3, 2009, I have the first of several surgeries. My first would be a mastectomy with reconstruction. This surgery was horrible and painful. I spent 5 days in the hospital and then recovered at home for six more weeks.
Recovering proved to be rough. My incision kept opening and I had to have it reclosed several times. So many times that it was decided I would have my second surgery on October 7, 2009. My second surgery was my reconstruction. The second surgery was rough on my body. I returned to the hospital the next day with what was said to be a reaction to the anesthesia. I spent another five days in the hospital.
I experienced so many things going through this. One thing I realized is that people do not understand what you are going through. I was 31 years old and had a breast removed, two reconstructed, made a living will, made a will for my kids and dealt with anxiety and depression daily. Then there is the lymphedema that comes with having your lymph nodes removed. It was horrible trying to become comfortable in my body again. I am still not fully comfortable with the scars, and the anxiety is something I do not think I will ever get used to.
Cancer left me with so many questions. Why? How? Will it come back? Cancer is a constant reminder. The dates, the doctor visits, the edema, and the scares will get you down if you let it. As many bad things cancer brought into my life, it also brought good things too. Cancer made me stop and look at how I was living life. It made me cherish every day. It made me get active and get into the gym and running. Cancer took my life in a new direction that some people did not like or understand, and that is ok because it’s not their journey to understand or to live, it’s mine. Cancer is slowly becoming just a chapter in my life that I have turned the page on. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my bad days and maybe I always will. However, those bad days don’t last as long anymore.
I want my story to let young people know that they are not alone. I also want them to know that it is ok to stand up for your health when it comes to speaking to the doctor. Doctors are not always right. We know our bodies and we know when something is wrong. I also want them to know that they are not alone. There really are people out there that do understand what you are going through.