Welcome to our first "Pink Link Stories" blog post! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt -- this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish the entries here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we'll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to submit your story right now, just send it (along with a photo, if you'd like) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.
My story started in April 2015. I went in to have my annual mammogram. While we were waiting for the results, they called me back into the office and said that they needed to take some more pictures. So. I didn't think anything of it, until they called me back into a private room with my husband. The pathologist said, "I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm going to be honest with you. It looks like cancer." At that time, my heart fell and all I could think was, "I don't want to die!" The pathologist then says that we need to do a biopsy right then and there. So, while I was waiting for the biopsy to begin, all I could think was that I didn't want to die. I remember the pathologist saying that they were going to put 8 markers in my breast. I could feel every needle prick and at each prick, I cried. On top of that, I was counting each one and there were 10 pricks, not 8.
As I was driving home, all I could think of was, how am I going to tell the rest of my family? When I got home, my 19-year-old daughter was home and she could see that something was wrong. I told her I was scared and I was not sure how to tell my parents that I might have breast cancer. Well, I didn't have much time to think about it, because my daughter called my dad. As soon as he asked me what was wrong, I started crying and told him that it looks like I have breast cancer. He was very calm and just said, "let's wait and see what the results of the biopsy are."
We had to wait over the weekend and that weekend seemed to last forever. On Monday, I was at work and I got a phone call from my family doctor. She said wasn't sure if she wanted to tell me the news face-to-face or leave a message or tell me over the phone. She decided to tell me that she was sorry, but I did have breast cancer. At this time, I was freaking out and crying. I finally asked her if my husband and I could come in and ask her some questions. She agreed to meet with us that day after work.
I called my husband and let him know the outcome of the biopsy results. After talking to him, I told my boss what was going on and that I needed to go home for the rest of the day. While I was at home, I called my brother, who doesn't live that far from me. I had my husband meet me at the doctor's office so we could talk to her about my options and what our next steps were going to be. We had plenty of questions for her. She was unable to answer them all, but we understood we had options. We were told to call the Longmont hospital and set up an appointment to see an oncologist. Just as I was about to call and set up a meeting, my brother called me and asked me to not do anything until after he came over and talked to me. I agreed... he told me that a friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer and that I should call her oncologist in Fort Collins at the Harmony Cancer Center. She gave him all the information that I needed to reach out to her. I called the hospital in Fort Collins and said that I needed to set an appointment with this specific oncologist. the receptionist told me that before I could see her, I needed to have my biopsy results and any other information sent to her office. So, it took me 2 days to get the discs and information sent to Fort Collins. Once the office had my results, I was asked to come to Fort Collins that next week.
When my husband and I met with the oncologist, we had an array of questions we wanted answered. The first question we had was, "should we get a second opinion." The doctor told us this: she is on the board of directors and my case was seen by her and 6 other doctors, so my case is getting 6 opinions. Once they agreed on what was seen, they came up with a game plan, all before I came into the office that day. As I was trying to write the answers to my questions, my oncologist took my notebook and wrote them down for me, so I would be able to focus on her answers. the main reason we stayed with her and that office was because she knew everything about my case and she didn't have to keep looking at her notes. We felt as if she really cared about us and the best way to help me with the breast cancer.
During that meeting, she explained to me that I had Stage 3 breast cancer. Her game plan for me was to go through 20 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery, and then 6 weeks of radiation. Before we could start chemotherapy, I would need to take a pre-chemo class and have a power port inserted into my chest. Well, I had never had a surgery in my entire life. I had the surgery for my port at the end of April 2015. I started chemotherapy, the day after Mother's Day in May 2015. My husband took me to my first couple of treatments. We had a schedule and a plan to have some of closest friends and family take me to my treatments, since I was not able to drive there and back. For the first 8 weeks, I was going to Fort Collins, twice a week, every other week. I was told that I would be tired for about 2 days and then recover over the weekend. I was able to work at least 3 days a week during the first 6 weeks. At exactly 2 weeks of my treatment, I noticed that I was losing my hair. I was so devastated, I called my sister, who was going to take some pictures of me before I lost my hair. I called her and asked her to cover that night and take those pictures, because I needed to take out my extensions. She came over, took some pictures and we make arrangements to have my hair cut really short. I remember taking out my extensions and washing my hair that night. I kid you not, when I was done washing my hair, I looked like Fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color.....haha!
When my first 8 weeks were done, I was able to change my appointment day to Thursday, so I could take Thursdays and Fridays off to recover. At this time, I was able to work, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. My job was open to it and they have been very supportive of my treatment schedules. I finished my chemotherapy in Sept 2015... and on October 27th, 2015, I had a double mastectomy, because I did not want to deal with the cancer spreading if I only had one removed. I also had 13 lymph nodes removed on the left side. The only time off of work was the 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.
After I was healed and able to lift my arms above my head, I was able to meet with the radiation oncologist. I had a game plan there too. I was to start radiation in January and it was to be, everyday for 6 weeks. the side effect was tiredness. I made the best of my time and I was working out as much I could. In February, I ended my radiation therapy. the day after I completed my radiation, I did the Fight for Air Climb, in Denver, to help fight lung cancer. I was able to climb all 56 flight of stairs in a little more than an hour. I was so proud of myself. Since I have completed chemo and radiation therapy, I think I have had about 4 more surgeries and I still have another one scheduled in the near future to have my implants put in. I have been working out 6 days a week, and I start a workout clinical trial soon, twice a week for 6 weeks.
Thank you for listening to my story.