I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS), stage 1 on January 19, 2011, and I was 43 years old. I was in a rebuilding stage in my life because I was going through a divorce.
Family history: I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. I was the first person to receive the diagnosis, and this was a shock to all of us.
How did you find out? I always got my yearly mammograms and at this screening, a lump showed up. The doctors called me back for a second mammogram and then I had an MRI, and then a biopsy.
What was your treatment plan? I had two lumpectomies, one reconstructive surgery, and 33 rounds of radiation with three beams at each session.
What was your biggest challenge? The most difficult part for me was accepting the unknown and learning how to embrace my “new normal.” The diagnosis was new to me and sometimes “fear” would creep up. I worried about my three sons and how they thought about their mom being diagnosed with breast cancer. Another challenge was embracing how my skin changed with the radiation; to this day, I still have what is referred to as the “radiation glow”.
Did anything surprise you along the way? What surprised me along my breast cancer journey was that the people who I thought would be there for me weren’t and the people who I didn’t expect to help me showed up with unconditional support. I received support from strangers and from people via social media and to this day, we have still maintained a friendship. Another thing that surprised me is that I realized that I was existing in life and not living it. Breast cancer taught me how to live. Breast cancer taught me about self-care, and it taught me to be grateful for everything. Breast cancer sparked a fighting spirit within me that I didn’t know that I had. The pain had a purpose because breast cancer gave me a platform to help others and it opened up so many opportunities for me. I learned how to love myself with my scars and I learned how to live life to the fullest.
Who were your biggest supporters? My biggest supporters were my sons, my parents, some family members, church family, and some friends that turned into family.
“Breast cancer taught me how to live. Breast cancer taught me about self-care, and it taught me to be grateful for everything. Breast cancer sparked a fighting spirit within me that I didn’t know that I had.”
What resources can you recommend to others? When I was diagnosed, I was living in Atlanta, Ga and I received my surgeries and treatments at Piedmont Hospital. My doctor was Dr. Kelli Carroll who called me with the breast cancer diagnosis and my breast surgeon was the amazing Dr. Bill Barber. Since moving back to Maryland, my oncologist is Dr. Arati Patel and she is so thoughtful and caring. There is a support group in the Charles County, Maryland area called “Sisters At Heart Breast Cancer Support Group” and they are very active in the community and they have a Facebook page that lists more information.
One tip or piece of advice for others? Try to stay around positive people and embrace the fighting spirit within you. Watch funny movies and tv shows, and try to laugh every single day because laughter is good for the soul. Don’t ever give up. Turn your breast cancer diagnosis into something positive, consider writing a book on your journey, starting a support group, or creating a business. The most important thing that I learned, and I made it my motto and that is: LIVE ~ OUT ~ LOUD!