My story

I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in April, 2016. I have had 2 surgeries, and I am now NED of the awful mess thanks to God and wonderful Doctors.

Sometimes in life there are fleeting moments that pass you by before you really know what has happened, and you later realize that you are lucky to have survived. But surviving cancer is not so mercifully swift. It lingers in the shadows, peaking it head out every now and then.

Breast cancer is no respecter of women. Or men. It doesn’t care who you are, where you came from, what color, what age, or that you really don’t have time for this horrible disease. I remember feeling as if I could not breathe and the sting of death was at my door.

I have always had a mammogram done every year at the end of April but they seen a lump or 3 (that is what they found)…I never felt anything. I am thankful that it was caught at an early stage. The words, “You have Cancer” were spoken by the doctor.

Mind you, breast cancer has never been in my family. No one had cancer at all, of any kind. I was terrified to start with but I knew that my God was bigger than any cancer in the world. I made my mind up that I was going to fight this rather than let it take over my life.

My life suddenly seemed dark and hopeless. And here in that moment, a new me emerged. I was a fighter and was not ready to leave this world. I was not ready to leave my daughters and my family behind. My purpose on earth was not fulfilled, and I was ready to put my boxing gloves on and fight this horrible cancer.

With a cancer diagnosis you are thrown underwater. And the words “You have cancer” become the dark sea that pulls you down, down, down, until friends or family or a kind doctor or nurse pulls you up for air. At the surface, you gasp for the stage and grade of it, you gasp for the treatment plan. There is no time to float. Then despair might hit, and you’re back under, to be revived again and again, bit by lung-filled bit, as the days and appointments pass.

Though family and friends surrounded me through this fight, I was still alone with my thoughts. No one could really know what I was thinking or feeling.

I wear something every single day that is a reminder of my battle with breast cancer. It’s a pink bracelet that my grand-daughter got from her teacher, October of the year I was diagnosed. It is a reminder to me that the will to survive is the most powerful of all emotions and that I am a proud survivor. That is the funny thing about women who have had breast cancer.

There are a million attitudes about it, both positive and negative. Some women pretend it never existed, as if that acknowledgement takes away its power. I am personally proud I dealt with it and came through the other side relatively unscathed. I think that is a huge accomplishment.

I have long since gotten past the “why me” and “this isn’t fair”. I have told my daughters, everyone has a struggle in their life, and this is what God chose for me. I now realize that I am so much stronger than I thought I was, and I can do so much more than I ever knew.

Now I’m on tamoxifen and struggling with the decision to move to aromasin. I am also the .01% of women who did not have chemo that got neuropathy from tamoxifen. I gained 60 pounds. I got sick of myself and over the past year, at 56+ with drug induced menopause, I’ve slowly trying to take back control and have lost 29 pounds and still trying to get more off.

I am lucky to have an incredible support system. My husband, children, friends and family have been with me every step of the way.

I think one of the biggest ways to overcome any trial in life, to heal from any kind of experience is by helping those around you. By lifting those around you, you end up lifting yourself as well.

But my life was separated into distinct two parts—before breast cancer and after breast cancer. I settled into a new normal. I was able to make peace with my scar, and see it as a badge of courage, as defiantly beautiful—it meant I was still alive. Maybe you will choose to mark your transition with something significant. A trip, a special purchase or perhaps a tattoo, like I did 6 weeks after my bilateral mastectomy. A heart with a pink ribbon as have if it on my ankle with the words “Stay Strong” above it. To me, it signifies the strength and hope you need to get through this ordeal.

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