In some ways it was an ordinary day. In other ways, it was not.
This was the day I knew I had breast cancer.
There was no confirmation of it from a physician….yet.
But I knew on this date after my annual mammogram that this was going to be the time.
I was always called on the phone and told I needed to come back for more images, or an ultrasound. For years.
This time was no different….called to come back, more images, ultrasound, and ultimately and added procedure I had never had yet….a biopsy.
That word alone was scary to me.
But the biopsy confirmed for the doctors what I already knew in my heart.
And I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
5 years ago on January 29.
And I remember when the word got out, the community rallied for me and my whole family. It was unfathomable to me and Keith that so many people in this town and beyond this town, were doing so much for us. Car pooling our kids, meals, cards, earrings, banana bread left on our porch, prayer shawls, blankets, etc. But most of all prayers. Keith and I were clinging to our faith in God with every ounce of strength that we had in us. Which some days was not very much. And that’s when I knew. That if I couldn’t pray for myself through my fear, that others were doing it for me and my family. And it’s exactly what we needed. Prayer and lots of it.
According to my oncologist, my cancer was “big, bad, and ugly.” My mom, Amy, and Keith were in the exam room with me for this of just many appointments and scans. And I sat up on the exam table, looked at my 3 people who were with me, and saw some trepidation. And out of nowhere came my words to Dr. Cody, “I can do this!” Keith said he remembers the doctor twirling around in his chair and telling me, “You HAVE to do this.”
Strength was coming from above and from Patty’s Prayer Warriors. And still to do this day we are grateful for that time in our life for so much care shown to my entire family.
After many tests and scans, the treatment began. 2 harsh chemos, and 2 targeted drugs. Every 3 weeks. Six times. Got it. During that time, I met the bestest of friends. A whole corner of young women in the same boat as me. And this is going to sound crazy….but we looked forward to chemo days. We laughed, we cried, we ate (hello donuts & pickles & tacos), we gained weight, and didn’t care. We are still the best of friends to this day.
4 weeks after chemo, I had my bilateral mastectomy on June 30 and I was bound and determined to go to the 4th of July parade to see my girl in it for Ft. Thomas Jr. Cheer. Drains and all, I went. Tired when I got home but I did it.
4 weeks after my mastectomy, I had 25 rounds of targeted radiation. 5 days a week for 5 straight weeks. Every morning. My mom and dad drove me to every single appointment. And there were days I know Dad would have rather been in bed. But he did it for me.
After radiation, I was allowed to start my Tamoxifen pill. And I continued on a targeted drug therapy, called Herceptin, for another year. Every 3 weeks. I considered this my safety net. I loved it. I was still getting ‘something’ into my body to ward off and keep away nasty cancer cells.
So after it was decided my slight burns on my right quadrant that was radiated were healed enough, I was given the go ahead to pursue reconstruction. Keith will often times remind me how bad chemo was for me, and I know it was. But I will never forget the pain of the breast tissue expanders. Ever. I think I uttered words from a vocabulary that I had never used before. This part ended up being more procedures and surgeries than I anticipated but I did it.
How does all this relate back to my girl, Michelle. She was only in 5th grade, but it was the year she grew up fast. She became even closer (if that’s possible) to Keith because Keith was playing not only the Dad role, but Mom too. But she was mine through my illness too. There wasn’t anything she would not do for me. I can remember apologizing to her for not being able to do certain things that I once could because of my stamina and fatigue issues. In typical Michelle fashion, she would say, “Mom, it’s okay. You have cancer.” These words from my precious girl of just 5th grade.
The next years were years of healing, still fear, and trying to get back to our lives. I went to my oncologist every 3 months for labs. They would check the tumor marker, CA27-29, and that number had to come back below 38. And if it did, there was no metastasis. And every time, it was a good number. And such relief came to us. Until it was time to go back for another. We started a tradition of praying a family rosary, the night that the good results came back.
I’ll never forget my last results in June before Michelle passed that August. We were all in Hilton Head. It was a Monday. My online chart was messed up and so I couldn’t just log in and find it in mychart. So I was not-so-patiently waiting for Dr. Cody’s nurse to call me with that CA #. Keith, Michelle, and I were in HHI TJMaxx. Keith was off over in the Men’s Department, and Michelle & I were looking at purses. (Surprised?) And my phone rang. It was the office. And Laura was on the other end telling me my number was low and all was well. I don’t know if I did, but you wanna just sink to your knees in thanksgiving. And I would always say, “God, thank you.” I got off the phone, told Michelle, and she said, “C’mon, let’s go find Dad and tell him.” And we did.
This past Wednesday, I had my 5 year labs and once again, my number was all good. Keith and I have learned that many things in this life are not in our control. And we try to remember to prepare ourselves. We did just before we left the house for my appointment because we have come to find …. you just never know.
To all who have prayed and continue to pray for our family, thank you for your prayers for all of these journeys in our lives over the past 5 years.
Thy Will Be Done.
My Red Bank Road Warrior Sisters.
One of my biggest fans.