Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! 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 a few of those 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 keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.)
2005 was a great year. I was finishing up paramedic school, my fiancé was finishing up nursing school, we were about to get married and buy our first house. 2006 brought more fun and adventure for two outdoorsy newlyweds. We had it all planned out. We’d enjoy each other’s company for a while before we started our family and we’d save up as much as we could to prepare for our future, a future that was looking very bright. 2007 brought some struggles but we made it through the year with perseverance standing by each other’s side. 2008 is when I found myself without a job, which altered my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But it wasn’t the end of the world, yet. We decided this would be the opportunity we wanted to start our family since we agreed one of us would stay home with the kids anyway. So in 2009 along came son #1. Unfortunately, that was also the year we lost our first house. With only one of us working, it became a challenge to live the lifestyle we had become accustomed to. 2010 brought pregnancy #2 which led to son #2’s arrival in 2011. His appearance in the world would be the only bright part of 2011 though.
October 6, 2011, just 5 months after giving birth to our second son, I was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. My first thought was of the family I had just started with my husband, then my second was how they would go on without me. To me The C Word was a death sentence. But with the support of our family and friends we were getting things taken care of, especially the boys. Thanksgiving was uneventful, until a few days later. That’s when I became a widow/single-mom/breast cancer patient. I found my husband face down in the bathroom not responsive, not breathing, with no pulse. As a paramedic I knew it was too late to try resuscitation. He was gone.
The depression I had suffered with for so many years had finally come to the darkest point. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. This was my rock bottom. I had to give up the life I had built, uproot my kids and myself and move two hours away so that I had the support I needed to get through the next few months of my life, because it was going to be a battle to make it through. I was determined to not allow my life to end. I made a decision to not only survive, but to thrive. I had no clue where to start, but I knew I had to start over.
For the next couple of years I focused on my health and physical healing. I had four months of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and seven weeks of radiation. Due to tissue damage from radiation I had to remove the expanders that were placed during my mastectomy and allow my body to heal. Six months later I opted for the Latissimus Flap reconstruction.
Once my physical body was back in order I began to look into my mental health. I don't remember being offered counseling or therapy services when I was diagnosed, then again, I just may not have heard it through the fear of dying. I began seeing a therapist for the depression and anxiety. We worked through so much I finally started to feel like I was going to be ok. It got to a point though where ok just wasn't enough. I wanted to live, fully and wholeheartedly. I began reading more and more and was eventually led to looking into life coaching. So many people had told me "you should be a life coach". I had no clue what they were talking about, and I started listening to the little whispers I was hearing. Those whispers led me to Debbie Ford's book Dark Side of the Light Chasers. That book reached in and pulled my heart from my chest. I researched Debbie and her ideas about the Shadow. Eventually I signed up to take her Breakthrough Shadow Coaching program. That opened me up to the possibility of creating the life I wanted, even after breast cancer.
While in my coaches’ training I met an amazing woman who worked at The Chopra Center. She taught classes on emotions, mindfulness, meditation and awareness. Going deeper with her has allowed me to deal with and release the emotions that I believe caused my cancer in the first place. Even though I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer I can confidently say that it won't come back. Learning how emotional dis-ease causes physical dis-ease has been the key to me standing at the top of the hill screaming that cancer can be beat. I am now in training to learn the emotional release techniques she has taught me so that I may help others release their baggage so they are free to create the lives they want to be living.
My life today is very different than it was 5 ½ years ago. I thought breast cancer was a death sentence. It actually turned out to be the greatest gift I have ever been blessed with.
Michele writes her own blog -- check it out at michelemadrigal.com!