Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month......and I am a Survivor.

Last November, I shared the story of my life on my personal Facebook page through the Team Bret Michaels Site.  Many of my friends and family knew about this, but I kept it off of social media during my fight. 
As we head into October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, I am sharing my story with you as well.  This has nothing to do with cooking, baking, party planning, cocktails, or even has to do about cancer invading my life in 2013.
Photo credit: Gretchen Wakeman Photography

I was diagnosed with stage IIIA breast cancer on January 14, 2013. I was 41 years old. The cancer was in my left breast and had invaded several lymph nodes under my left arm. Because of the fibrous tissue in my breasts, the tumor was not detected on the mammogram and not felt by my OB/GYN or general surgeon, but the enlarged lymph nodes were cause for concern. I'm glad I went to the doctor. Only after an MRI, was the tumor detected in my breast. Biopsies in both areas confirmed the cancer.  My diagnosis was further refined after biopsies identifying the tumors as ER/PR-positive and Her-2/neu score of 2+.

My hair was to the middle of my back, which I had cut to shoulder length shortly after my diagnosis. Two weeks to the day of my first chemo treatment, my hair started to fall out.  One week later, my husband shaved my head.  This is not something we EVER plan to do again!

In 2013, my primary focus was to get rid of this cancer and I went through a lot to do that!
  • I received 8 rounds of chemotherapy for 4 months starting in February
  • In June, I had a bilateral mastectomy and had 17 lymph nodes removed under my left arm
  • I started 6 weeks of radiation in July 
  • I had a complete hysterectomy in September
  • The first reconstruction surgery was in early November and the second was in February of this year
  • I just had my final reconstruction surgery in September of 2014
Besides taking time off for the surgeries, I continued working full time - thankfully I work virtually - and tried to be the best mommy I could to our {at the time} 4 and 7 year old boys too.  

I learned in early 2013 that I was BRCA2 positive so that made my decision to have the bilateral mastectomy performed as well as the hysterectomy. Ironically, this genetic mutation came from my dad, who unfortunately lost his battle against esophageal cancer earlier this year. 

I had a very hard time being strong about this initially, but then I thought that this was the most ridiculous thing that could ever happen to me so I was going to be a fighter and get rid of this nonsense that was consuming my life.  My amazing husband and two young boys have been incredibly strong for me and very supportive.  In 2013 we were overwhelmed by the thoughts, prayers, positive energy, meals, childcare help, etc. that continues to be sent our way by our friends and family when needed.  It has truly been incredible.  

Gretchen Wakeman Photography did a remarkable job of taking my photos last May after my final dose of chemotherapy.  This wasn't something I planned to do.  The Hubby suggested it and I'm SO glad I did it.  I love that these images are part of my story and fight against breast cancer.  To see more photos from the session last May, you can visit this link at Gretchen Wakeman Photography.
Photo credit: Gretchen Wakeman Photography

Going forward, I will continue to believe that I am cancer free until my next scan….and for the rest of my life for that matter!  I am a survivor and I am extremely grateful for that!

I also want to thank all of my guest contributors that helped me in 2013 providing content for the blog and for my weekly column in the Southeast Valley Ledger.  I don't know that I could have kept up without them!

I am sharing this to {hopefully} give others encouragement and strength who need it no matter what they might be fighting right now! Be strong, believe in yourself, fight hard, give yourself pity parties when warranted, and being an alumna of the University of Arizona, I have to say....Bear Down.
Keep up with your party planning, trying new foods and drinks, sharing ideas with me and with each other!  Be grateful for everything you have and thank you so much for your support!


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