In August I will be celebrating 10 years cancer free!
In January 2004, I was 48 years old and had been married for just 5 months. I finally had the back surgery that I had put off for years and thought my life would be greatly improved. After much pain and rehab, by April I was happy I had decided to have the surgery. I went for my annual physical and mammogram which both had great results, but two weeks later my husband discovered a large lump on one of my breasts. I returned to the doctor who said it had to be a cyst but ordered an ultrasound to be sure, and again the results appeared clean. After insisting on more tests, I was sent to a surgeon who did a biopsy. I had to wait three weeks for an appointment due to medical personnel’s vacations. On the day I received the results, I was having my feet massaged by a nail technician, my husband was holding one hand, and I had a glass of wine in the other. When they told me it was cancer, I never before had such a feeling of dread. I knew the future would bring a lot of bumps in the road, but also that we could handle it.
They thought a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy would be sufficient. However, the results from that showed the margins were not clean and identified additional issues. My invasive ductal carinoma was grade 3, fast growing, and there was also in-situ carcinoma so they recommended a mastectomy. I went with a double mastectomy since this had been so hard to diagnose, and I chose to have implants. The surgery was scheduled in August, with chemo starting in October. The final procedure was when I received the implants in March 2005 almost a year from the original diagnosis.
Many wonderful things came from that year of surgical procedures and chemo. I met another woman who had breast cancer and who, like me, grown up in Nashville and recently moved to Pennsylvania. She will always be my “bosom buddy”. When I discovered the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, I signed her up to receive a Friends Like Me care package. It was a nice surprise when I got mine and I wanted to share it with others. In fact that is why last October I volunteered to help a very good friend Marc Crusemire with his “Bridges for Boobies” scooter tour in Lancaster to benefit breast cancer awareness. I recommended the proceeds go to the PBCC and we had a very successful first year. I am excited that Strasburg Scooters is having another “Bridges for Boobies” tour on October 7th. It’s a great day spent with guided scooter tours through the back roads of Lancaster County.
The biggest gift I was given that year was the outpouring of love and support. I received prayer shawls from churches I was not familiar with, and cards from elementary school kids that I did not know. Friends from all over the country flew in to help my husband Michael run our Bed and Breakfast, Lovelace Manor, so that he could go to chemo and other appointments with me. The other B&Bs in Lancaster County were amazing. For months they brought food for us, food for our guests and many other wonderful and thoughtful things.
The surgeries, the pain, the nausea, the hair loss, the weight gain and the cloudy memory were the bumps in the road. But the journey was well worth it for all of the positive experiences which made me a stronger, grateful, motivated and happier person.