My story

Six months ago, when my doctor called me back for a second mammogram after my yearly appointment, I guess I was a little numb/shocked, but I kind of expected the outcome. I was experiencing symptoms of an itchy nipple, slightly inverted nipple and a “fullness” that persisted after my monthly cycle was over – and had been called back the year before, but there had not been enough growth to be identified. A subsequent ultrasound examination and biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer.

My surgery to remove the tumor was successful and my doctor said that “all the margins were clear,” meaning that there was an acceptable circle of “good tissue” around the tumor when it was incised; however, I am still being treated.

Reaction of others:

My family were all shocked and concerned but very supportive. The men – my husband, my dad and my brothers – were very encouraging, trying to keep my spirits up. We had dealt with my youngest aunt’s passing due to cancer just two years ago, so this was still fresh in everyone’s mind. My children took their cue from them – they were little troopers. My mother, as always went to her source, she got down on her knees. She has been holding me up in prayer ever since. My friends have covered me, surrounded me, lifted me, comforted and consoled me. I felt their prayers all through this experience. I am very blessed!

Dealing with the different stages of grief:

I think I skipped the first three stages of Denial, Anger and Bargaining and went straight to Depression for a bit. Although that came after surgery and during the follow-up treatment. Before surgery I had a couple of anxiety attacks – they did not last long. I mainly was worried about my family, what they would do without me there. I so want to see my children’s children! My maternal grandmother celebrated her 100th birthday in August this year, so I come from good strong stock. If it is God’s purpose I plan to make it to that ripe old age also.

My treatment plan and after-effects:

  • Wellness mammogram
  • Diagnostic mammogram & ultra-sound examination
  • Biopsy
  • Surgery
  • Accelerated Radiation (twice per day for five days)
  • Prescribed the “hormone blocker”, Tamoxifen (blocks Estrogen & Progesterone from any rogue cancer cells). I should take this for three years initially and re-evaluate to perhaps switch to another medication for two more years.
  • Three month follow-up check
  • Diagnostic mammogram every six months for three years.

The aftermath of surgery speaks for itself. Pain and more pain, but I had good drugs and slept a lot for about two weeks. Radiation was tough, being the accelerated method that is administered internally, five weeks of treatment was compacted into five days. I was tired a lot and sick to my stomach often. I still tire a bit easily now but it is so much better than during those days. I have not manifested any side effects of the Tamoxifen that I can clearly define as such but it is still fairly new to my system. Time will tell.

My “new normal” and how I’m different today than before my diagnosis:

  • My emotions are more intense now, loving harder than before.
  • I get upset more easily but also I forgive more easily.
  • I appreciate my family more.
  • I have a deeper desire to create a Godly legacy for my children.
  • I am seeing beauty in whatever I can.
  • I am exercising more and eating better.

Advice to others:

For survivors:

For those not diagnosed – Do not neglect to get a yearly wellness mammogram done, start early. I would suggest from age 30-35 years especially after your first child. Many breast cancers start in the milk ducts.

For those already diagnosed – Listen to your doctors but do not hesitate to ask questions. The more you understand what your body is going through the less scary the experience will be. The less paralyzed you are by fear the harder you will fight. The harder you fight the greater an example you will be for your daughters and other women around. They will draw encouragement from your display of strength.

For families:

For the husbands – Let your wife know that she is still beautiful in your eyes and that you still love her, with or without her natural breasts. This will make a world of difference.

For the family in general – Don’t look to her to continue to carry the full load of the responsibilities that we wives and mothers usually take upon ourselves. I know that sometimes we may seem like Wonder Woman but most times it is an act, we ain’t all that. Look for the little ways you can take the pressure off of us.