In this previous blog post, I wrote about my friend, Tracy's, fight against Breast Cancer. When I first heard about Tracy's diagnosis, I didn't exactly know how I could help and support her. I've not been directly affected by breast cancer in my life up until now. Tracy gave me insight on how she kept positivity in her life during such a traumatic time.
The beautiful thing about me sharing my friend Tracy's Breast Cancer story, was that many more strong women reached out to me to share their stories, as well. I mostly asked each of these brave women, "What is one thing that was really memorable for you? Something that somebody did to help you, or something that somebody said?"
I'm here to share their honest answers in hopes that we'll be better prepared to help the next diagnosed woman we love. I would greatly appreciate it if you would please take a moment to read each of these brave women's submissions and add them and their families to your prayers.
Kelly has been shopping and chatting with me, and until she shared this story on my Facebook page, I had no idea she had breast cancer. Kelly wrote, "I was diagnosed one year ago on October 15. Scariest damn thing. It was caught early thankfully, and I just told my doctors to get me in as soon as possible for surgery, and then I had radiation starting in January 2021 and finish that at the end of January. I can’t say enough about making sure you get your mammograms, I even missed a year and I was so mad at myself. I have my scans coming up here this month. I will admit, every day I am nervous about it, but I know I had good doctors. When I was finished with radiation I did put a post out which was a little out of my comfort zone for something personal like this, but I can’t stress enough how you need to keep up with the mammograms. I never thought at almost age 50, I was 49 at the time, I would get this.
So, literally I was scared shitless. My aunt who is just a couple years older than me got breast cancer when she was 40. So I knew she had been through it. And then my mom also had breast cancer at the age of 62, so when I turned 50 and found out I had it, I was so scared. I had a friend also that was going through it at the same time. So for me, I am always one that goes right to the Internet to do research, and then I get myself into a tizzy and get all worried so this time, I did not do that. I just waited until the doctor would call with my diagnosis and like what stage I was and all of that. But when I went to my first meeting I guess the thing that stood out to me the most was when my surgeon said, "Kelly, it is just a bump in the road." For some reason that just sticks out in my mind, and then I just felt more reassured. It was still scary but after she went through what my treatment plan was going to be and said it would just be a bump in the road I was relieved. Having a strong support system is important, I had my mom and my aunt. But I can’t stress enough about getting mammograms. So very important. I have my scans coming up shortly because it will almost have been a year, I actually had surgery November 23 of 2020, Started radiation in January 2021 and finish that at the end of January. So I will admit I’m a bit nervous but I do feel good about how things went.
I was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago. No family history. I was checked regularly and I never noticed any changes. Please don’t put off such an easy test to get done!
Cindy shared, "I was diagnosed September 23rd 2019 2 days after my daughter's wedding. Invasive ductal carcinoma as well. I had 12 rounds of chemo then I was supposed to have 4 rounds of the Red Devil but only made it through 3 of them. I couldn't break my fever and was losing weight along with dehydration, of course Covid was hitting the country, too. Had a double mastectomy April 22nd 2020 with expanders in until October 15th which is when I had my reconstructive surgery. Expanders sucked ass. I still have joint pain and a few other side effects but Hey, I'm above ground and cancer free. I'd go through it all again if I knew my daughter. daughter in law and grand daughter would never have to face that demon. Get Your Mammograms, that's what saved me and I too almost canceled it.
[I had to ask, what are expanders??]
Cindy continued, "Expanders are surgically put in at the time of my mastectomy. They get filled weekly with saline to expand your skin to the size of the implants. They are painful. I had to sleep in the recliner. Your skin feels like it is going to burst.
People were so amazing when they heard the news. I had some cousins and my mom clean my house the day of my first treatment. I had no idea and would not have wanted that but I was truly so happy to cone home to a clean house. I received so many gift cards for coffee and gas and grocery stores. I also got parking passes for the Mayo ramp. And people were so gracious with gifts of cash and food.
My doctor told me the day of my diagnosis ( 2 days after our daughter's wedding) that I was in for the hardest year of my life. She wasn't kidding.
I luckily didn't get sick to my stomach with any of my treatments, but the bathroom knew me well otherwise. Losing all of my hair wasn't an issue for me, ( it grows back fast) I was just an ugly bald person with very dry skin and scalp. The last 3 treatments which were called the Red Devil were awful. Almost lost my toe nails and list 20 pounds...bonus. Although they warned me of this but said the weight would come back with a vengeance and it has. It is extremely hard to lose. I think I was dehydrated at least 4 times. That meant more needles.
My advice, let people help in any way that they can. Try try try to stay hydrated, chew lemon drops and find an electrolyte drink that you like.
Get your mammograms!!!
Cancer sucks and tries to suck the life out of you, Don't let it. Stay strong and look to the ones you love.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at my first mammogram at age 40. I was lucky and it was caught early. I had a lumpectomy and radiation. I had no family history and I do not even carry the gene. It all seemed so surreal. I’m happy to say 3 years later I am still cancer free. It was a very scary thing to have kids and have cancer. People say some of the craziest things when you have cancer.
Here are helpful things that people did of me:
Rides to radiation or chemo.
Inviting my kids to play just so I can rest. Also talk to my kids about their feelings. They are often scared but don’t want the person with cancer to see it. They want to be brave for me.
After surgery you have a weight restriction for lifting so helping with laundry, yard work, cleaning the house or grocery shopping.
Gifts are ok but not as helpful as actually helping.
Please for the love of God do not give us the commercialized pink breast cancer stuff. Or inspirational books to read. We just are not up wearing pink and having to answer people’s questions. Donate to breast cancer research instead. As far as reading, cancer takes a mental tole and you may not feel up to it.
Please don’t tell us about your experience with a relative with breast cancer. Your story about a 70 something relative is not the same as being in your 30s or 40s and having cancer. Also definitely don’t tell me your loved one died from the disease.
Please don’t put it on us to reach out to you as sometimes we are not sure what we need or we may not ask. Instead ask if you can do a specific thing on a certain day and let us say yes or no.
The memorable part for me was and is the fear. From finding the mass to the many appointments to surgery then radiation. Each one brought its own type of fear. Now, while I am considered “cancer free” because there was no evidence of cancer in the margin of the tumor or the lymph node that was removed, I wonder at every ache & pain if something is growing back. My follow up MRI is in late November and I find myself once again waiting.
Something someone did that made a difference:
One friend, a nurse, accompanied me to the oncologist appointment and was able to refresh my memory about the second half of the appointment because my mind shut down, completely. Other friends dropped off meals and snacks after surgery.
I tried to maintain my senses of humor and gratitude throughout. I am not fond of journaling and found that recording short videos on my phone helped me organize my thoughts and work through feelings. It also allowed me to speak to my sons in case the worst outcome happened. I saved the videos in a cancer journey folder that I can review and, if the worst does happen, can be used for a memorial.
I have been open and honest with my family, friends, and colleagues about this journey. I struggle daily with the mental fallout of the diagnosis and am still working on regaining my strength.
Thank You to Magnolia & Twine for sharing this incredible picture of my friend, Tracy.
If you've made it this far, you must be invested in learning more about Breast Cancer and genuinely concerned about these women it has affected. I am grateful to these women for sharing their stories with me, and I'm proud to have the platform to share them with you on.
I know I'll be bookmarking this post as a reminder on what to do the next time Breast Cancer strikes one of my friends or family members. I'll be a little more prepared to fight for them thanks to these women sharing their stories.