"My mom was diagnosed when I was 10 years old. I always knew I would be the one of four kids to get it, I even warned my husband before we got married. I was diligent about mammograms from the time I turned 26, every year... sometimes twice a year, when the doctor thought something looked a little different than the time before.
I was scheduled for my annual mammo in April, 2011. Just a couple of weeks before my mammogram, I began experiencing pain in my left breast, it was confined to a small spot, about the size of a fingernail, but the skin felt funny, leathery, and I was concerned. I had my mammogram and was called back for a recheck within the week... something suspicious was found. A biopsy followed. The technician prayed with me as I fell apart in the exam room. I will never forget her.
I don't think you are ever really prepared to hear the words, you have cancer. It's like being in a tunnel and the words are echoing in your head, but you can't totally comprehend. My initial diagnosis was non-invasive ductal carcinoma. Stage one they said, some even considered it pre-cancer. We were relieved and felt confident this would be easy to kick to the curb. During the course of the next few weeks I met with many doctors... some I liked, some I hated. I realized quickly that it was MY choice... the doctors, the procedure, the timing. I was in charge. I had a double mastectomy on June 14, 2011 with reconstruction started immediately. By the time I had surgery, the small tumor initially biopsied had grown aggressively, and measured 9x11 centimeters. I was happy to have it out of me. I did 23 cycles of radiation, 5 days a week for almost 5 weeks and then I was done. Or so we thought.
The following September 2012, I was re-diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is sometimes hard to diagnose correctly, and it is extremely aggressive. It had spread to my skin and because the skin is our largest organ, it was considered metastasized and very dangerous. We were devastated. We got the news on a Wednesday, the doctor wanted me to start chemo the very next day, Thursday. The following Saturday was our son's birthday party, he was turning 4. I could not wrap my head around that and told them no. I needed a few days to think and celebrate my baby boy. I started chemo on September 20th 2012.
It was a long journey. I ultimately had three additional surgeries, 51 rounds of radiation and 13 cycles of IV chemo. I also took oral chemo pills (awful) and had an additional 18 months of maintenance chemo targeting my particular type of cancer gene - Her2 Positive. I spent a lot of time in the infusion center, and each of the initial 13 times, I had a friend or family member by my side for the 6-7 hour process. I was so very lucky to have such amazing support. Over the 18 months of maintenance, I considered the 2 hours "me time" and I learned to enjoy time off the grid. Silver linings.
I've been in remission for over two years now. My "babies" are now 8 and 12 and thriving. My husband is still by my side. I look back and wonder how we ever go through it all... but I know how. God is good, prayer is profound, and the people who love me most never let me give up."