How did you find out you had breast cancer?
“I actually found a painful lump and immediately thought it was a cyst. I decided to wait about a month to see if it would resolve. After it did not, I scheduled an appointment to get it evaluated. The doctor was pretty confident that it was not cancer and didn’t even think I needed a mammogram because of my age – I was 37. So, I insisted that I wanted to get some imaging, and he agreed to a routine mammogram. Right after the mammogram, I was sent to the ultrasound room. The radiologist requested a biopsy the following week, and I received the cancer diagnosis two days later.”
What has treatment looked like for you?
“Initially, I was given a choice between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, where you take the whole breast out. My surgeon was pretty confident that the cancer was in Stage 1, but once a sentinel node biopsy was done during surgery, it was discovered that three of my lymph nodes were positive for cancer. It was not Stage 1, it was Stage 3A. At that point, I was told I would need chemotherapy. I ended up getting four months of chemo followed by 25 sessions of radiation. Right now, I’m on hormone-blocking therapy for 10 years.”
What has helped you the most during your cancer journey?
“The biggest thing has been my faith; I am a Christian and a believer. What also helped me was lots of prayer support. My local church, my previous church in Spokane, Washington, and lots of family, friends and strangers had all agreed to pray. My personal relationship with God is my biggest support. I don’t know how I would have gotten through if I had not had faith.”
Do you have any advice for those supporting a loved one with breast cancer?
“Help with whatever is in your means. You may not have the finances, but there are so many things you can do: washing dishes for somebody or dropping off a meal. Maybe they have small children, and you can take the kids for a day to help lighten their load. Find a way to help, because it’s hard enough going through treatment with all of your emotions. Sometimes, you can’t even think of what you need. It’s the people who found ways to help without asking; those are the people that really touched me.”
What encouragement or advice would you give to those fighting breast cancer?
“My first thing would be to turn to your faith to support you in this journey. I’m not a private person. I made sure that I included my friends, my family and my church. It’s so much easier when people are walking the journey with you versus you trying to fight it and do it alone. Let people be part of your journey. Also, don’t give up. You have to have this positive attitude and say, ‘I can do this; I’ll get through this.’ and not give up – not fall into that dark cloud. For me personally, a lot of it was my attitude towards treatment. I think it really helps to have a positive mentality.”