What do you do when you hear those three words, you've got cancer? I heard those very words in April of 2002 a few weeks before my 44th birthday.
My story begins like this, I found a lump in my right breast while doing a self exam. My doctor was called and a series of tests were done. I was at home waiting for my young children to come home from school and my husband was out of town that day. My husband hardly ever goes out of town for work. My doctor called and said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but you've got cancer." My whole world stopped at that moment in time and I had to recompose myself to hear what the doctor was telling me. Those three words are not the words you ever want to hear.
As soon as you get the diagnose, you get the fear factor. What's going to happen to me, what's going to happen to my family, I am going to live or I am going to die. There is so much going through your mind at the time of diagnosis. If you let it, the fear factor can overwhelm you.
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 estrogen, progesterone, Her2+ invasive ductal carcinoma. Had a lumpectomy with sentinel node biopsy. My treatment plan included chemotherapy, radiation and adjuvant therapy. I was on Tamoxifen for roughly 2 1/2 years and Arimidex for nearly 6 years.
Decided several years ago to do genetic testing. One of the best and most proactive decisions I made in my cancer journey. My genetics test revealed I had the CHEK2 gene mutation which would increase my odds a bit of getting a second breast cancer. As a result, aggressive screening was done every 6 months. A mammogram would be followed 6 months later with a breast MRI. Also, decided at the time of testing, that the first time a biopsy was needed regardless of the outcome, that I would do a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
Life was good and my journey back to the "new" normal lasted almost 16 years. In that time, I have watched my children become grown adults, have traveled the world and have had a successful career. I got involved and have been involved with the (YSC) Young Survival Coalition at the time of my diagnosis in 2002. Biking and training for YSC Tour De Pink was a game change for me. Getting on that bike meant that I was winning the cancer journey.
My journey changed in December 2017. My yearly MRI, showed a tiny amount of atypical cells. Not cancerous, not normal. The decision had been made years ago...a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction. Additionally, I was also diagnosed with a chronic leukemia. Talk about your journey changing overnight. My pathology revealed a minuscule amount of DCIS had started in the opposite breast. The breast that had been treated prior was good. My doctor called once again to tell me the news, no chemo, no radiation or further treatment was necessary.
This time there wasn't as much fear with the diagnosis. You see, I have found strength in my cancer journey. I have found the strength and the courage to keep moving forward with my so called life's journey. I may stumble from time to time, but I as long as I am still moving forward that is all that matters.That is my story.