Cancer gave me the right to prioritize what my family needed and what I needed, and I have maintained those priorities for 13 years.
It all started when I found a lump in my right breast, like a clogged duct that wouldn't go away.
After a needle biopsy, 2 ultrasounds, a mammogram, an MRI, and a stereotactic biopsy, I still thought my doctor was just being overly cautious. His office called my house at 7:00am to set an appointment for that day. That's never a good sign. I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer.
By 11:30 I had heard the news - breast cancer. I was 38 years old, mid-divorce, with 2 little boys at home. At first, I was told the cancer was contained in the ducts and that treatment would be a mastectomy only. During my mastectomy, they removed four lymphnodes and found that two were positive. So my treatment plan extended to a year of chemotherapy.
I am now 13 years cancer free and my journey seems like a lifetime ago. After about 5 years, I stopped thinking about cancer and recurrence everyday. Now it's only a passing thought, usually when I schedule my annual mammogram.
I kept a blog of my journey - you can find it here. I am so glad I did because as life moves forward, many of the emotions and miracles of my cancer journey are lost.
Cancer has changed my life positively in so many ways. First, I was surrounded by an amazing support community. Friends and neighbors went out of their way to provide meals, help with my kids, and visit me at the infusion center. I never knew how loved I was and strong my community was until my diagnosis.
Second, I learned I was strong. I was a single mom with babies at home when I was diagnosed. I was terrified. But by focusing on each step one at a time, I learned my situation was manageable and that I could handle my life with cancer.
Third, I learned that I was beautiful. I had always had long hair. I thought my hair was my best feature and I always wore it down. When I lost my hair to chemo, I really saw my face for the first time. I saw the shape of my face, my eyes, my lips and I was still pretty without my hair. It was a revelation for me. I learned to prioritize myself and my family.
Before my cancer diagnosis, I said yes to everything - classroom mom, team mom, babysitter, volunteer... My diagnosis gave me an excuse to say no. It gave me the right to prioritize what my family needed and what I needed, and I have maintained those priorities for 13 years.
Cancer has given me a profound sense of gratitude and made me much more aware of all the good that surrounds me in both the everyday and in the extraordinary.
I am more vital, energetic, optimistic and hopeful for an inspired future, sharing my success with others.