When thrown a curve ball, what will you do? How will you react? I am not sure anyone can truly answer that. We may think we know.
My first personal experience with breast cancer was in 2007 when my mom was diagnosed. I remember feeling overwhelmed with the thoughts of what was going to happen. What was she going to have to go through, would she be okay? I knew we would all be there to surround her with love and support; to help with her with whatever she needed. Would that be enough?
She underwent a couple of surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal treatment. She fought her battle and is a survivor!
This, coupled with other major life changes I faced led me to take a step back, look in the mirror and ask myself in what direction was I headed. I was determined to take control of the things that I could. Remaining positive, calm, and taking my wellness and health into my own hands became a priority for me. I found peace and happiness and worked hard to reach a goal of feeling fit mentally and physically by the time I turned 40. I was committed to making this a reality and was well on my way.
Fast forward. In 2013, I felt a tiny lump on my right breast and thought it was worthy of asking about. My doctor’s initial thought based on its placement and size it could be just a cyst, but it was time for my first mammogram and that she would order an ultrasound just to be sure.
A few days prior to my 40th birthday, following my mammogram and biopsy, I heard those dreaded words: “I’m sorry and very surprised to share with you that you have breast cancer.”
One of my biggest fears became a reality.
I cried for half a second, began pacing back-and-forth in my house, but knew I needed to pull myself together and come up with a plan. How would I share this with my daughter, Brianna, and my family? I immediately thought about my mom’s journey, the fact that I now have cancer and about Brianna’s wellbeing. How would I call my best friend who had been anxiously waiting to hear the test results?
What did I do?
I went in to “go” mode and said you’ve got this! Genetic testing was done immediately. It turned out I am not genetically predisposed to breast cancer. It offered a small sense of relief for my daughter’s future. I then began to think of the choices I had made in my life. Could any of my choices potentially led to this? My head would spin with thoughts, emotions and so many questions. Processing the information, diving into research and asking many questions helped me gather all that I needed to choose my path and be prepared for the next step. I told myself over and over “I’ve got this!”
I was fortunate – I did not have to endure some of the treatments that others go through. My breast cancer was caught at a very early stage. I am living proof of why self-examinations and mammograms are so important! After undergoing a unilateral mastectomy, my treatment plan included hormonal therapy for the next 5 years.
A few months ago, on top a year filled with so many unknowns, my family was thrown yet one more curve ball , my mom was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She remains positive and is responding well to treatment. We hope each day that it does not progress quickly, and that medicine will change the path for her future.
I often think that I do not have a story. But, when asked to share, I took some time to reflect on my journey. I am not sure it is possible to put into words how I have felt since receiving my diagnosis: grateful, guilty, scared, strong, anxious, hopeful to name a few but most of all loved and supported. I am so very blessed to be surrounded by my family and the most incredible people.
And so, my story continues. Today, I am totally stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing publicly for the first time that I am a breast cancer survivor! I am a fighter! I will continue to be brave for my mom, my daughter, myself, and all others who are faced with a life changing diagnosis. I continue to think about my health and wellbeing and know it is important to stay strong, focused and committed.