How did you find out you had breast cancer?
I found out purely by accident. I had refused to have a mammogram for at least 10 years, because they used to hurt so badly. So I saw my primary care physician for my yearly visit in November of 2020. I had been having a lot of trouble with my stomach, so I requested an abdominal CT scan, just to make sure there was nothing wrong. I had the scan and she called to tell me they had found a lump. The CT scan, either by design or accident, went a little bit higher and caught just enough breast tissue on the left breast to locate a mass in the five o’clock position. A very alert radiologist, I think, saved my life. My primary care physician had done a breast exam that day and didn’t catch it. So who knows how long it would have gone undiscovered! My breast cancer was in stage 2B.
What has treatment looked like for you?
In December of 2019, I had the lump removed, then in late January I started chemotherapy. After that, there was a break for a few weeks before I started radiation. So I underwent many treatments.
What has helped you the most during your cancer journey?
The most helpful part was having my son and son-in-law here. They took very good care of me, especially when I was having treatment in early 2021. They encouraged me to eat, they did the grocery shopping, and took care of the dogs. They did everything. I never really wanted to eat since everything tasted awful, but if I didn’t want what they cooked, they always cooked me something else. When we were under COVID-19 restrictions, we were all very concerned about me being in public with a compromised immune system, so they ran the errands. That was the biggest help – having them.
Do you have any advice for those supporting a loved one with breast cancer?
It’s really important to be there for the person, but not to push them really hard. When you find out you have cancer, you’re basically facing your own mortality. When somebody is very pushy with you, it makes you tend to back off, because you think, “They don’t know how I feel.” Be very loving with them. Just be with them and listen to them if they want to talk.
Don’t wait for your loved one to call you with what they need. Keep in contact with them, visit them, and just help with the little things. A friend I know had cancer and was going through chemotherapy, so she was very sick. Her best friend showed up one day to plant her flowers in her garden and it meant so much to her.
What encouragement or advice would you give to those fighting breast cancer?
My personal opinion is to go for all the treatment you can. I was given treatment options so that I could decide for myself. For my peace of mind, I elected to do every recommended treatment. Also, it’s very difficult for cancer patients to ask for help, but it’s so beneficial. Be in contact regularly with friends and neighbors, so that you don’t feel isolated. Finally, get your yearly mammogram, along with the other screening tests. Mammograms don’t hurt like they used to at all. Sometimes mammograms are not fun or convenient, but they do save lives!