It was just beginning to get warm in April of 2010 when we took a trip to Galveston with our kids who were 12 and 3 years old. About this time my husband had noticed a small pea sized ball on my left breast, never had he told me that I needed to go to the doctor but this time he said you might want to get that checked. At this time, we did not have insurance but I scheduled an appointment at the place I received my birth control and was told it wasn’t anything to worry about. However, this small lump began growing, and my breast started to turn red and had an orange-peel texture. I went back and was sent orders for a mammogram, but I was not told I would need to pay over $200. I left crying. I ended up going to the emergency room at the county hospital where the male doctor brought in a female doctor to take a second look. I could overhear her say to him not to let me fall through the cracks and to get me in with the breast surgeon.

What healthy, 29-year-old, wife and mother of 2 is even thinking about breast cancer? I never had a family history, I rarely drank alcohol, did not smoke tobacco, so why would I?

Five months passed from that pea-sized lump to September 22, 2010 when I finally received a diagnosis, the breast surgeon was sure it was Inflammatory Breast Cancer. He saw it before, almost a year prior, in a patient younger than I. I sat stunned, I asked, “How sure are you?” and his response was 99%. My husband sat in the corner crying while our 3- year-old son played. I sat staring at Thomas, thinking how long would I have to watch him grow.

A nurse came in the room after the doctor left and told my husband this was not the end. They took me across the hall and I sat in a dressing room alone waiting for a mammogram and after it was done the radiologist came and asked if she could pray with me. It felt like it took so long to get to this point and now that I was here, everything they were saying made no sense.

My next appointment I had my aunt drive me to find out what stage I was, she asked if I wanted her to go in and I said no. I came out and was in shock, so much running through my mind, “stage 4” on repeat while my aunt asked if everything was ok and all I could say was, yes. I did not want to speak it out loud, I wanted to hurry home to break into a million pieces. I was dying and no one could tell me how long I had, and the severity punched me in the gut when I was told to get my affairs in order with what my wishes were with my children.

My husband and I had many nights crying and praying together. I had to be ok whatever the outcome was; because everything else was out of our control.

We had the game plan: chemo- Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin regimen with added neulasta to shrink the tumor, then a radical mastectomy to remove my left breast and finally, radiation.

Everything was a whirlwind, I was scheduled for port placement and they used it the next day for chemo. I felt like a robot, doing what they told me, moving through the motions. And to top it off, it was now October…..breast cancer awareness month, I hated that pink ribbon everywhere, it taunted me like a time clock and made me want to vomit.

I was constantly in my head, worried about people worrying about me, worrying about my son remembering me, worrying that I wouldn’t get to see my daughter graduate, worrying that my mom would have to bury her last child. I put myself in the perspective of everyone around me. The week of my mastectomy, I gave my husband permission to leave and told him that I would be ok. I was embarrassed for him and ashamed of what he would have to accept of his wife.

I completed treatment and was considered NED (no evidence of disease) in December 2011. However, I also had another surprise during this time, I went for a procedure and while prepping, the nurse came to tell me I was pregnant. I was pregnant…. I was told when I began treatment that I would likely never be able to have children again and I accepted it, I had my boy and girl but here we were, my hair just growing back, my body recovering and I was expecting a new life, in more than one way.

To say all these years later that I am NED is a bit misleading; the evidence of this disease is still seen, every day, by me. Some days I still have difficulty accepting that young girl will never return and cry thinking about what was lost to me personally, but gratefulness takes up more space than the tears. My hope will continue to rest with the one who created me; created me to be a mother, wife and for some reason, a survivor of this terrible disease that should have shortened my life years ago.

Two things I have learned:

  1. When someone offers help, take it when possible. They are offering a blessing and you deprive them of receiving one in return.
  2. When diagnosed save your energy: Tell those closest to you and let them tell the others that need to know. You will be strong some days but not strong enough to carry others.

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