"In 2007, at the age of 38, I discovered a lump in my right breast while lying in bed. I blew it off at first, not even thinking it was anything to be of concern about. All that I knew of breast cancer was it was something that happens in older women (so I thought).
"So a month went by and the knot became larger and harder, and I awoke one morning and blood was in my bra. I knew then that it was time to go get this thing checked out. I made an appointment with my family doctor and upon examination he sent me over to a breast surgeon the same day. Fear began to set in and I think my doctor sensed that, and he told me that it could be nothing, but he wanted to be sure. I tried not to worry, but overhearing my doctor reinforce to a staff member that he wanted me seen that day if at all possible, and for her to call over to the women's breast center ASAP. So I kind of knew it was serious, but still tried to remain positive and not think the worse.
"I hadn't told anyone about the lump. I have always been the private type when it comes to personal matters and I didn't want to worry anyone if it turned out to be nothing. I was given an afternoon appointment, so I went to grab some lunch to kill time and get my mind off what I could be facing. The breast surgeon did an exam and an X-ray and advised me that there was a very noticeable mass that will need to be removed; she had seen many breast cancer patients, and from the looks of the X-ray it looked like it could be a cancer, but it could be benign, and a biopsy would determine that. Me, always trying to see the glass half full, I tried to think on the side of benign tumor.
"Still not wanting to alert anyone, I kept this to myself. So I was set up for a biopsy two days later (longest two days of my life). I have to admit with each passing hour, that glass was becoming half empty. The day of the biopsy, I was feeling less positive. At that moment, I needed my mom and I wished like heck I would have told her. After the biopsy, I was a complete mess. My mom was at work, so I drove to my sister's house and, I don't even remember how I got the words out, but I remember breaking down and feeling so defeated. Some of the details are a blur because I was so overwhelmed with the reality of what was soon to come.
"Indeed the next day the doctor called and confirmed what I kind of knew would be my fate. It was cancer. A roller coaster of emotions: Who will take care of my son if I die? Will I look like a sickly cancer patient? Will anyone ever want to date me? Mostly my thoughts surrounded my then 15 year old son: I won't see him grow into a man, I won't get to spoil my grandbabies.
"One thing I knew was that I wanted the cancer out ASAP. So I took the first available surgery date given. I am very detailed and known for researching things before I make decisions, but not this time. I just wanted it out. I was afraid and didn't know what to do, so I just let them set me up with the team of doctors in their shared practice. Fast forward a few weeks. In August 2007, I had a right breast lumpectomy, and lymph node biopsy was done at that time. A few days later, I was informed that the cancer had showed to have spread to the lymph nodes. Again I just wanted the cancer out, so September I was back in surgery to have the cancerous lymph nodes removed. I then went on to face several rounds of chemo and radiation. I had good days and bad days, but I had made up in my mind that I was gonna be a fighter and accept the hand I was dealt, and keep it moving. Not to exclude that I had an extremely wonderful support system who helped me get though the rough days.
"My glass was once again half full. I took hormone blockers for the prescribed five years, given that my cancer was estrogen positive. I was feeling awesome about being a now seven-year survivor. It's 2014, and my life couldn't be better.
"And the music stops, someone hits the breaks, and the tires screech. August 2014, a routine mammogram detects a spot that causes concern for the radiologist. This could not be happening again. The only thing I could think of was, 'I don't think I could make it through another round of chemo.' The glass felt totally empty. I couldn't even find the words to pray on. I felt as though cancer was gonna be what takes me out, so maybe I need to prepare for my demise. I felt perhaps I needed to get things in order mentally and physically.
"Truly, joy comes in the morning. After crying and feeling slightly defeated, and simply just calling on God to help me through, I got up and prepared to do what I know is in me, a true fighter. I remember the advice that was given to me during my first round with cancer: 'You've got to keep a positive attitude.' No truer words have been spoken.
"This is the advice that I pass on to anyone that's faced with this dreaded diagnosis: Cry, cuss, scream, do what you must, but get it out, and get over it. It's okay to have your moments, you are human, but you have the power over this. So wipe those tears, get up, get dressed, put on your scarf, wig, hat, or just go bare-headed, but get up, get cute, and keep living. This is the hand I was dealt, so guess what? I'm gonna play my cards. My prayer is that breast cancer will soon be a thing of the past, but until then I'm gonna fight. And as I lay here writing this, I am four weeks out recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. I think of Whitney Houston's song, I Didn't Know My Own Strength. Praying for a cure!!!!
A Little Humor in the Face of Cancer
"I was jumped by this gang. The leader of the gang went by the name Cancer. He was big and strong. I'll admit I was afraid because of his size, and rumor has it he has won a few tough battles. I have to admit he had me shook a little; however, I heard there was a few old ladies that done made this sucker cry like a baby. So I put my tough girl stance on and I boldly told Cancer to bring it on. Let's battle!!!! Sure enough, that sucker went away with his tail between his legs. I had my chest stuck out wearing a big ol' S on my chest. Yeah I'm bad!!!!!
"Oh, but Cancer was not gonna go down that easy. He came back with two of his gang members, Chemo and Radiation. Sh!#, what am I gonna do? I knew I wasn't that tough; I can't take on Chemo. Sh!#, she was three sizes bigger than me. I was afraid to come out the house as they taunted me and egged me to come out and fight. They chanted, '"Fight like a girl" ain't that what your little t-shirt says?' They laughed, giggled, and continued to taunt me.
"Days went by and I had enough. I refused to stay hostage any longer. Macy's was having a buy-one-get-one-free shoe sale and you best believe I was gonna make it to that sale. So I put on my sneakers and Vaseline. Don't ask me why. I'd seen it in the movies and it looked tough. So here goes. Chemo jumped on me first and that bi#%* was strong. She got me down a few times, but that shoe sale was calling my name, so I fought her with everything in me. Nothing was getting in the way of me and those six inch heels. With adrenaline flowing, and my shoe fetish, I was able to take Chemo down like a champ. That S on my chest was a bit worn, but I wore it proudly.
"Oh, but Radiation comes around the corner. Word has it Chemo usually wins the battles so Radiation has to do very little fighting. So here comes Radiation, trying hard to punk me down. I was tired, not sure if I could take on any more battles, but I had to get to that shoe sale by any means necessary. What shall I do? I had no more fight in me. I put on my tough girl act. 'Come on Radiation I'll lay you down like I did Cancer and Chemo.' Heck, I was selling wolf tickets; I had no more energy to fight.
"But no sooner than I got those words out my mouth, ol' punk azz Radiation took off like a bat out of hell. I stood there flexing. 'Yeah, that's right you better run.' Then I turned around and there was a gang of my prayer warriors. My number one prayer warrior (my big sis) spoke up, "Girl, put your chest back in. Radiation, Chemo, and Cancer ran for their life when they saw your gang of warriors." Oh well, maybe I'm not as tough as I think, but I got cute shoes!
"Dedicating a little humor to those that are in the storm or have overcome the storm."
--Felicia, diagnosed at age 38
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