I’ve had a family history of breast cancer. My mother had breast cancer in her 40s, pre-menopausal, and her mother had it in her 70s, so that was a risk for me before I was ever diagnosed.
Once I was 35, I started doing mammograms every year. I wasn’t expecting [cancer], but I was prepared. After one in March 2009, I got a call from my doctor saying that I needed to go back and have another mammogram, because they needed another view. Then they needed to do a biopsy, and that’s when they found the cancer. They had to send it on for some additional testing, because they were concerned that it might be invasive.
I didn’t have my surgery until the end of June, which is not your typical course. That was because of a variety of things, but I really just wanted it done. My mother didn’t die from it. My grandmother didn’t die from it. But one of my best friends died from it on her 37th birthday. I had another friend who got it at 39 years old, so I just wanted it out. No matter what it was, I just wanted it out.
My husband was scared to death. His dad had recently died of cancer. He was college roommates with the husband of our friend who died at 37. We were high school sweethearts, and we have two little kids. He was devastated when I was diagnosed.
Before my surgery, I couldn’t sleep. I needed medication to sleep. I just wanted to get it over with. It was a little weird, but after the surgery, I felt relieved. I was prepared to deal with whatever they told me, but at least that part was done.
My husband was thrilled when I woke up from the surgery, because they’d looked at my lymph node and everything was clear, so that was good news.
My reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Karu, was wonderful. I’ve never met anyone more compassionate or kind in my life. She explained everything, and was very thorough, explaining the options that I had. My husband and I couldn’t have been more thankful. She did an incredible job. She just made me look like me.
When they did the biopsies after the mastectomy, it came back with non-clear margins. That’s the scariest part of breast cancer for me. It might come back. There are still cells there. Tamoxifen may or may not help that.
I’m not afraid to die, if it came to that. I’ve got a lot of good friends, incredible friends, that were really good through this. And I have my family. I have four brothers and a sister. They, and my husband, my kids, my dogs…they’re what gets me through it.
I think what the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation is going to do is going to be unreal. Most importantly, all the money is going to go to the research. The fact that this is all going back to finding a cure, and a very targeted cure, specific to each individual patient … that’s amazing.
I hope that people realize that 100 percent of their donations goes to finding the cure. They need to realize how important that is. This money is going to help patients and cure them someday.
The only way you can find the cure is through research. I’m a nurse. I’m very familiar with what goes on in research and how complicated it is to get new drugs and treatments out there. Hopefully the cure will be here sooner rather than later.
One piece of advice I have to tell people, is not to avoid people if they have cancer. Some people don’t know how to act if someone has breast cancer, or any kind of cancer. They’re either overly freaked out themselves, or sympathetic, or they avoid you like the plague. Don’t. They’re not going to give it to you, for one thing. And they need that pat on the back, a “Hey, how are you doing?” They just need to be loved.
I’m realistic, but I hope my husband and I will spend a long life together, and never have to have cancer brought up again.
Give your voice to inspire hope and strength in others.
See other stories.