Instead of counting the years that I’ve survived cancer, I prefer to say I just celebrated 7 years “cured” in May 2018.
I was diagnosed with Her2 positive invasive ductal carcinoma after finding a lump in my right breast, near the rib cage. I completed 16 rounds of chemotherapy over 5 months. Four were the brutal kind and twelve were less brutal but with plenty of fun side effects! I kept exercising, both running and lifting weights, during treatment, but in the end I gained 15 pounds, most of which I blame on cake and good scotch. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy on May 31, 2011. The pathology report came back clean: complete response, no cancer left.
After treatment I underwent reconstruction with silicone implants, which took 5 months. This means I just remove the pads that come with Handful bras. The clean pathology report meant I got to keep my own nipples, and I figure if they get pointy it’s kind of amazing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
At the time of my diagnosis, I worked for Rivermark Community Credit Union. Before every single treatment, one of my coworkers presented me with a delicious homemade meal. I felt supported every day and could not be more grateful, because I know that not every patient feels supported by their employer.
The best advice I received, which I still share with others, was to avoid googling my illness, also known as “Dr. Google,” and stick only to knowledgeable websites. I met many wonderful women on my journey and am so happy when I see my survivor sisters thriving. I’d also say cancer gave me more balance in my life. I work hard at my job, but my home life is full of adventure and peace.
One thing that has helped keep me cancer free is that I kept exercising and lifting weights, all while experiencing no lymphedema symptoms. It’s important to find both a type of exercise you enjoy and a place to do it in where you feel connected and supported. I found both when my former trainer introduced me to Industrial Strength Gym, five years ago. I’ve grown so much as a person and an athlete since I joined Industrial Strength. It’s also where I was convinced to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and now I’ve been training for four years.
I will continue to try new things as the years keep unfolding. I’m training for my next big jiu jitsu competition in the spring. I’ve embraced hiking and backpacking, and even a bit of rock climbing. I’m determined to make the most of every year cured from breast cancer!