I was diagnosed August 6, 2007. The first time I noticed there was anything wrong with my breast was in November the previous year. I had noticed a dimpling in my breast, so I made an appointment. My regular nurse practitioner was out, so I saw a different one. She didn’t find anything. She did a thorough exam, and so I thought that was really kind of odd, so I made an appointment to have a mammogram because I just kind of know my body. But the mammogram came back clear.
I kept thinking that it wasn’t right. I was having pains that were shooting into my breast that I’d never had before, and again I still couldn’t feel anything, but I knew that this dimpling was not right. I was scared and I would tell my friends, “I just have a feeling that I have breast cancer.” And they thought I was just crazy.
One morning in July, I rolled over in bed and I felt something, and so again I called my nurse practitioner and made another appointment. This time, she definitely felt something, though it was odd. So we made an apointment at the breast clinic at Sanford. I went in the beginning of August and had an ultrasound, mammogram and then a needle biopsy that Friday.
That Monday, they told me it was breast cancer. I was at home, laying on the couch taking a nap, when the doctor called me. He said, “Well, Lisa, you have a nasty cancer in there, and it has to come out.”
I just kept thinking, “I can’t believe this happening to me.” I was a single woman. I had never been married. I never had children, and I was not dating anybody. And I thought that it was very hard to go through it, because I felt alone. It was very difficult to be home at night by myself and dealing with the thoughts I was having through my treatment and meeting with doctors and just going through it, because as a single woman, it’s different from a married woman or a woman who has a family. I think we all experience the same emotions, but it’s different depending on your circumstances.
Chemotherapy was the toughest thing that I have ever gone through in my life. I did it every other week, and the first four treatments, they call “the red devil.” They were the hardest ones of all of them. And then I did 12 weeks. With the extreme fatigue and the stress of it all, I honest to God wanted to give up after the second treatment. I did not think I could do another treatment after the second one. I had no control over my life anymore. I would tell my mom over and over, “I’m not going to chemo. I can’t do it anymore.” But the alternative is just to give up. Every kind of broken imaginable, I felt it. I just tried to do it one treatment at a time.
That was at the point when I went in to talk to the oncology psychologist. We talked about the fact that I had clear margins. I did not have cancer as far as they were concerned. The treatments that I thought were killing me were actually saving me and the side effects were the chemotherapy working. It was totally working.
I belong to a support group now, which I think has helped me in more ways than I can ever imagine. I think that being around other women who are going through it, have gone through it, is important. We have a very strong bond. We meet once a month in a secure situation where what’s said in the meeting is kept in the meeting, so we can share our deepest thoughts and fears. We rely on each other when we are having a bad day, where our thoughts have gotten away from us. Every breast cancer survivor is linked in a way. We’re in a sorority that nobody wants to join, and yet we’re in it and have to make the best of it.
I was in the best shape of my life before I was diagnosed. After I got through everything, I was in the worst shape of my life because it just took a toll on my body. I got myself back into shape and ran my first 5K. I wasn’t sure that was something I would ever do again, but I did it.
I do talks at colleges to the new girls, and tell them how important it is to do their monthly breast exam, to know their bodies and get in the game. My family does not have a history of breast cancer. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. The youngest girl in our support group is 24, and the oldest is in her 60s, so it really can happen to anyone. It’s knowing your body and detecting it early that makes a difference. You have a better chance if you find it early. I knew my body. I knew something was wrong.
With the cancer that I had, if they would not have come up with the treatments, I would have been gone within a year and a half. When they started the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation, I thought “Finally.” They need to get a handle on breast cancer. There are just too many women that are being diagnosed with it, and we need to find a cure. I want to see a cure in my lifetime.
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