I was diagnosed July 22, 2009, and I started with my treatment plan by the first week of August, so it was pretty quick. I worked in cancer research for eight years at the cancer center, so I understood things really well. I got started right away with chemo, and in the process of that they found a spot on my spine. So that changed my treatment plan. I did chemo first. From there I did a mastectomy, and then I did more chemo, with five weeks of radiation. And I actually continue to do Herceptin every three weeks.
I was 36 when I was diagnosed. I have three kids, Benjamin, Natalie and Carson. To me, telling my family was the hardest part of everything. I wanted to be really honest with them. They didn’t really understand what cancer is, at a young age like that, but they still understood that something wasn’t right. It was a hard time for all of us. My kids didn’t really know anyone with cancer before. They came with me to a lot of my doctor appointments. All of them had a chance to come with me to chemo. I think it was a relief for them to see it wasn’t hurting me.
The scariest part in being diagnosed with breast cancer is that you don’t really know what the future holds. However, none of us do. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way, and so have my kids and my husband, my family and friends. I’d say my family was instrumental in keeping me going, and we had a wonderful support system in the community, where people would bring over suppers and stuff.
I’m pretty stubborn, so one of the main things with me is that I didn’t want it to stop me from doing everything that I normally do. I didn’t want to have it stop me from living my life the way I do. I continued working, and my coworkers were wonderful through it all. I also went to everything for my kids. I think the most that changed was just being tired. I feel pretty fortunate because they have such wonderful drugs for nausea and vomiting that I never really experienced that.
I’m in remission, but due to the spot on my spine and the fact that I was considered stage IV, my doctor decided to treat it pretty aggressively. And I’m HER2 positive, which makes me eligible to get Herceptin. As long as I can tolerate it, we’re going to keep going with it.
Right away when you’re diagnosed, you’re thinking about cancer. It’s overwhelming. I had people give me advice: don’t think too far in the future…just think day to day…get through today… And you know, I did that for a long time. I still live in the moment, but I also don’t think about cancer all the time anymore. It’s my life. I want to enjoy every day.
I can say I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for cancer research. Right now, I’m on a drug that was funded totally through donations. Researchers can’t do it without funds. For me, it’s what kept me alive. Knowing that I’m going to be there for my kids as they grow older, and be there for them when they get married, and see my grandkids someday. Our hope is that someday soon there will be a cure for cancer. Together, with all of us, we can make that cure happen.
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