Survivor Stories -- Samantha Breen – Handful

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Survivor Stories -- Samantha Breen

on October 25, 2018

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)


 October 2017

by Jody on October 26, 2018

Sam – I LOVE your sense of humor and outlook. Every story I’ve read this month brings me to a wide range of emotions….from laughter to tears to the “tingling” of raw inspiration. Keep on doing what you are doing in every sense. You are awe inspiring!

by Jenifer Pokorski on October 25, 2018

I LOVE this!! From one survivor to another.. I totally understand what you mean when you say breast cancer was one of the best things for your mental health! It was one of the best things that could have happened to me too! You are inspiring and beautiful!! I love your view on life ❤️

by Lisa on October 25, 2018

I’m always amazed by your positive outlook, amazing sarcasm and true wittiness. I shall remind myself to tone down my bitch and moan mode. I told you already you are book worthy.

by Jennifer Ferguson on October 25, 2018

Sam, thank you for sharing your AMAZING ATTITUDE and your BADASS story! I am taking many notes out of your book: “no matter what, THRIVE, and BE KIND TO EVERYONE”!!! 👏 I would like to use your name, SAM, as “an attitude check”! (aka anytime I need an attitude adjustment, someone should say “SAM” to me… or I will say it to myself as perspective to Thrive AND be Kind… and take care of ourselves)! I love that you are “confidently and unapologetically prioritizing yourself”(our Handful vision!)…. booking massages and things to look forward to with loved ones like yourself, friends, & family (& letting go when necessary, aka ex-boyfriend). Thank you for the example of priorities and self love!!! 💪🏽💕

by Kathi steen on October 25, 2018

You are amazing Sam. Thank you for sharing your story. ❤️❤️❤️

by Laurena on October 25, 2018

I have had the honor of knowing you for a good portion of your amazing life. You continue to amaze me and inspire me with your grace, eloquence and spunk! I love you dearly and I hope that you inspire everyone who visits this site half as much as you have inspired me!

by Tina on October 25, 2018

Wow! What an incredible attitude you have. So glad you’re still fighting and still able to see the beautiful things in life. You’re a true inspiration!!

by Laura on October 25, 2018

Sam, these words of advice are excellent — you are a real role model and I’m so happy you’ve come out the other side with such joy and eagerness to experience life. Kudos to you, my dear friend!! 💗

by Cary on October 25, 2018

(((SAM))) There are few women who have been through the wringer more intensely than you, and ever rarer still someone who comes out the other side more joyful and kind-hearted than when they started. Too often the pile of unfair side effects and worst case scenarios turns to bitterness and defeat. You are such a shining example of resilience and those sweet kindergarteners in your classroom are SO LUCKY to be guided by your wisdom and positivity!


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