Rmanmom's Story

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"My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012. She was 81 at the time and her doctors felt that it was age-related. Despite it being caught very early, it was multifocal so a unilateral mastectomy was recommended. Mom originally said no to reconstruction, but my sisters and I encouraged her to do it. She was fortunate to be a candidate for direct to implant. While at surgery her lymph nodes appeared clear, final pathology came back with one testing positive so she was offered TC x 4. My Mom was/is in otherwise excellent health so her MO said at her age chemo is certainly doable. Mom did not like losing her hair but bravely went through chemo effortlessly, it seemed. My dad had been in failing health for years and she mostly concentrated on caring for him. My parents by the way were proponents of a healthy, organic lifestyle long before it was popular. We ate mostly vegegtables grown organically in their garden, little meat and we were/are all of a healthy weight and exercise frequently. My mom's MO had considered her for a clinical trial so she had BRCA testing which came back negative. Her MO told her 'tell your daughters not to worry.'

"With that, when I found a strange bruise up near my collarbone in the fall of 2012, outside of mammogram range, breast cancer was the last thing I thought of, even my doctors were unsure of what it was. However, it was biopsied and it came back triple positive. I was 48. Chemo was a given so it was recommended that I do neoadjuvent TCH x 6. I hesitated to tell my mom, she was just finishing up her own chemo and my dad was not doing well. I really hated to dump something else on her. I waited until treatment 1 was done, she took it well although I can tell she was shaken up, we chose to not tell my dad although I know he figured it out. A few days after my first treatment, Superstorm Sandy hit here in the NE. Oddly, both my home and my parents never lost power, although over 90% of our region did. The following few weeks were a flurry of helping friends and neighbors, losing my hair became an afterthought. We actually had some laughs over it. Seeing people lose their homes and livelihoods made me realize how fortunate I was: my prognosis was good and I would get through treatment, I still had my home, my family and my job.

"We forged on, mom and I put together Thanksgiving dinner, both getting too close to the oven with our wigs and singeing them. We got a laugh out of that. Right after Christmas that year, my dad passed away. I got the call the morning of my scheduled chemo #4. My mom told me, 'You have a treatment, you need to go and get it no matter what.' Needless to say we were all relieved to see the end of 2012.

"I completed treatment in Feb of 2013, it wasn't easy but seeing my mom handle everything with such dignity and grace inspired me to do the same. I had a unilateral mastectomy with immediate DIEP a month later. Mom's hair started growing back, and by surgery I was already sporting a head full of fuzz. My final pathology came back pCR, which was a relief. Radiation to the supraclavicle was recommended due to the location of the tumor, and I continued Herceptin every 3 weeks for the remainder of the year. By then it was springtime, I healed from surgery and felt good. Mom shed the wig and kept busy with friends and family as well as an exercise class. I had mostly fought quietly and privately, but soon my super short hair gave me away and I opened up to friends and neighbors.

"My mom and I are both well today and despite everything we feel very fortunate. We try to move forward and not dwell on 2012. We concentrate on maintaining good health and a positive attitude. She is doing great on letrozole and have manageable side effects from tamoxifen. My mom has since welcomed two great grandchildren, and she is physically and cognitively in great shape, living on her own, still driving and keeping busy. My husband, son and I continue to revel in our good fortune, despite what at one point seemed to be incredibly bad luck."

-- Rmanmom, shared a diagnosis with her mother

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