The truth is I had a sinking feeling, I mean what else could it be? I hoped a cyst and made an appointment with my doctor. I cancelled and rescheduled with some lame excuse. I rescheduled again, I didn’t want to know. I finally sucked it up and went to the appointment in the middle of February. I have a very good OB/Gyn, I genuinely like him and his sense of humor – but this appointment, he wasn’t smiling or joking around – he was concerned. He asked how long the lump had been there, but I really didn’t know. So, off I went for a mammogram.
Having just turned 38, I had not had a mammogram before. They really do squish your breast as flat as pancake and what’s more amazing, is it doesn’t hurt that bad!? You would think it would be excruciating, but it’s just uncomfortable to slightly painful. Maybe I just kept my mind on the prize, knowing what was in my right breast. Next thing you know, I am on an examination table being prepped for a needle biopsy. I asked, “Can you tell if it’s cancer by looking at the images?”, and the doctor responded, “No, but we have our suspicions and that’s why you are here.”
Four agonizing days later at the end of my work day, the phone finally rang. It was the doctor, “the mass in your right breast is cancerous, and there are two other tumors”. I hung up the phone and dove into my co-workers arms. I cried a short hard cry. I was scared, but still at work. I called my husband and my parents as soon as I could and they cried with me. Even though I was scared, the thought of being stage 4 never crossed my mind at this point… that just couldn’t be. I am the proud Mom of James who just turned 7 years old, and Catie who is 4 and they keep me on my toes! “I still have kiddos to raise, places to go, and too much to do to have cancer!” I thought.
My surgeon was wonderful. He had an excellent reputation and genuinely cared. He gave a very detailed explanation of what to expect throughout the stages of treatment. I had a mastectomy on March 10, 2011. Following surgery, I really thought I would have aggressive chemo, followed by radiation, followed by hormone therapy. (The typical treatment for stage 1-3 breast cancer). After my surgery, the surgeon explained to my husband that the tumors had attached to my chest wall, needing a radical mastectomy, and he plucked 12 lymph nodes, of which 7 were positive with cancer. My surgeon scheduled me for a pet scan a couple weeks later. There were two spots on my spine…I felt side swiped. Next a bone biopsy. Ouch!
When breast cancer has made itself evident, metastasized or stage 4 – the approach is to treat you. I learned that I have an old lady’s cancer that feeds on estrogen. Being as I could still make babies, I had plenty to feed the nasty bug, so it grew fast, even though it’s typically a slow growing cancer. After my bone biopsy proved bone metastases, I was told that I was, “incurable” and would spend the rest of my life in treatment. Granted, this may be true, but I couldn’t swallow it. The second oncologist I saw said we needed to remove my ovaries and start hormone therapy immediately followed by radiation. He believes that by starving the cancer, it will definitely keep the cancer from spreading, and may even make it go away? Wow, what a difference a little hope makes. The moral of this part of my story is…get a second opinion no matter what!
Facing a battle, my Aunt suggested to me to have family portraits taken. She said it was very important for me to do for my family, and she would know having a beautiful daughter who passed from cancer tragically young. She was reading the Bulletin one morning and read about Jill Rosell, a local photographer known for her “I Love Bend Oregon” photos on Facebook. After visiting Jill’s web site and seeing the beautiful photos she has taken, my Aunt picked up the phone. After hearing my story, Jill gave my family an amazing gift and took our family portraits. She explained to my Aunt that she wanted to take our photos, not as last photos of the family together, but as a gift to give me strength and joy and a reminder of when I over-came cancer! How beautiful is that?
I have learned so much in just 6 months! I have learned that faith and hope are essential! I have learned that I have an amazing support system from God, Family, Friends, and even people I don’t know! I have learned who my true Friends are and that there is still so much good in people! I have learned it’s important to teach our kids to give and receive! I have learned that I need an open mind to combine alternative medicine with conventional medicine! Maybe that’s all it takes to be cured? I have learned that so many people are affected by this disease, and we need a cure!
My one wish and goal is to spend as much time with my Family as possible. I believe that making memories with my husband and kids is the single most important task I have on hand. Life is short anyway, and we never know what the outcome of cancer will be. The pendulum could swing either way, but with time – I could heal – and that’s wonderful. There is a benefit to raise funds for my medical costs June 25th at The Bend Community Center, and I would love to see you there! There will be dinner, a silent auction and live music! Pine Lane and Past Fraction Zero – both local favorites! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy Jill’s work as much as I do! Amazing talent and she really does capture your soul.