This October 2018, I am celebrating 3 years of thriving after a diagnosis of triple positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage IIB breast cancer. I was 29 years old with a malignant tumor the size of a ping pong ball. The moment I was told I had cancer, I made one of the most important decisions of my entire treatment: no matter what, I was going to thrive and be kind to everyone I knew. This decision continues to give me the strength to be my very best.
Treatment wise, I was delayed in starting because I was originally thought to be Stage IV with other tumors in my thigh and lung. When they were found to be benign, I was downgraded to Stage II, and I did 6 rounds of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta chemo and biologic therapies, and 12 additional rounds of just Herceptin and Perjeta. I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. My ovaries were removed due to a suspicious mass (luckily it did not prove to be cancer!). In January 2017, my reconstruction failed and both implants were removed, and in August 2017, I contracted IgA vasculitis which may have been triggered by my anti-estrogen medication.
This may sound odd, but breast cancer was the best thing ever for my mental health. I spent so much time worrying if I was good enough for someone else, what I needed to do to make my hair perfect and how I could excel more at my job. Now I have kicked my aloof boyfriend out of my life, my hair grew back three times as thick as it was pre-chemotherapy, and I just landed my dream job of teaching kindergarten at a school with an 8 minute commute from my home!
For anyone else facing cancer, I would say resiliency is something that is planned, not earned. I book out pedicures, massages, hair appointments, and a nice meal about once or twice a month. If I come close to the appointment and don’t need it, it was nice to have it there. But there is nothing like getting the phone call “you need to get a scan for bone mets” and realizing you already have a massage scheduled for the next day to make the world just a little more pleasant. People like to help out -- but they often need guidance on how to help. Someone who lives far away but has a little extra money might be thrilled to get you a cleaning service or a magazine subscription. A friend of mine liked to take me on drives if I would buy lunch. You may also want to make a wish list on Amazon or something similar or be prepared for a full collection of water bottles, blankets, socks, and adult coloring books!
In my Battle Cry Pink Handful Bra, there will be Lights Out™ pads as my lightweight prosthetics. Most likely there will also be keys and a tissue for when I go out exercising. Now that I am Flat and Fabulous, the part I miss most about when I am not wearing a bra is a place to put a few things! I am just happy I get to see how beautiful I am now, imperfections, flat and everything!
Seaside, Oregon March 2015 (Diagnosed May 27, 2015)