Positivity is key: My journey of survival


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Remember that old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away? That was something parents told their children to encourage them to be healthy.  Eventually as adults we learn that it takes more than an apple.  To live life to the fullest your health must be a top priority. I can attest to that fact, because after my breast cancer diagnosis my health became even more important for me.

I remember when I turned 25 years old I felt that I was coming to a turning point in my life.  Within the next five years I would have to schedule a mammogram appointment, or so I thought.  When I did reach 30 I called the doctor’s office and explained that I would like to schedule my first mammogram.

Then I was informed that the recommended age for a woman to receive her first test has been raised to 35 years old. Okay, I thought there was no other choice but to accept the new recommendations.

The years go by, as they do, and now I am about five years older, again at the point in time to get that first mammogram, but low and behold, I was again told the criteria had been adjusted.

Now my head is trying to process this information and make sense of this, how the age to begin receiving mammograms is increasing instead of decreasing. Because, after all, early detection is key. So, when I was 39 I began seeing a doctor who agreed it was time for me to get the test done, so began my journey.

In October of 2013, I was finally scheduled for my first examination. I was excited to find out what the hoopla was about and why women didn’t like getting them done. Ouch, I now know that the complaints are valid.  What a mammogram does is compress the breast tissue between a metal plate and a plastic paddle to get an accurate reading of the entire breast.

Within a couple of days, the women’s health coordinator called me and said I was already scheduled to come in for a biopsy because my initial scans had anomalous findings. Back a week later to have a sample of the anomalous area removed for further testing. Now during this time, I hadn’t told my husband about this because I didn’t want him to worry, causing undue stress on me!

About three to four days go by and then I get a call from my doctor letting me know to come into the office at 9 o’clock Friday morning to go over the lab results. Just in case things took a turn for the worse, I had my husband accompany me to this appointment. That’s when I found out that I had breast cancer. At first, I was in a state of shock, which quickly set off a chain of events in the direction of how am I going to handle this diagnosis, how will I tell my children and family, and what will this mean for me in the long haul?

The first step after learning of my disease was to meet with the surgeon who explained the size of my tumor (5-6 cm) and the exact diagnosis, which happened to be carcinoma in situ. After that I had an appointment to meet my oncologist.

At that visit he had me do blood tests to determine my baseline blood levels.  During this time the only people who know about what I am going through are myself, my husband George, and my Aunt Bea. Although the time seems to be moving at a snail’s pace it actually was going fast.

From the time the doctors had determined that I did indeed have breast cancer to the day I had my surgery was about a month and a half. December 19 of ‘13 at 5:45 a.m. was when I was scheduled to have my surgery.

Now remember the children I mentioned before; well, because of their ages my husband and I decided to only inform our eldest of the events that were about to happen. The night before I was going to the hospital is when we called our oldest son into our room and had one of the toughest conversations of our lives.

I remember when I said the words “mommy has breast cancer” my son started to cry, and that cry was far different from any other cry I have ever heard from him. At that moment I felt his heart explode, and the only thing I could do was grab him and hold him almost to suffocation until he was ready to talk. Now to some people that may not have been the right decision, but I deemed it necessary to involve him in this process and give him tools so that he could relay the message to his brothers in a manner only children can relate to each other. 

Surgery went well, and my healing progression was good. About two months after surgery I started my radiation treatments, which were every day (except Saturdays and Sundays) and went on for about eight weeks. 

As I was going through all my appointments and the surgery along with the radiation, I kept hearing that my prognosis would be a good one because of my positive attitude along with the smile I always have. 

Here I am almost five years after my initial diagnosis and I am still in remission and just about done with my medicine regimen of Tamoxifen, and my positivity continues.

Back in November of 2017, I was given another reason to stand up and beat this cancer diagnosis–my first grandchild was born. The thing that I want people to take away from this is that your positivity does have a healing effect on your life.  Having something to live for and look forward to can help to alter the course of whatever it is that you are going through, especially if you have been handed down a cancer diagnosis.