I offer you my story as one of Hope. Breast cancer has always been like an ominous cloud lurking in my life. My great grandmother, grandmother and mother all died of the disease. My sister and I were both diagnosed within the same year and are BRCA2 positive. On October 8, 2004, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive Stage 3 breast cancer with several lymph nodes involved. I was 34 years old, 16 weeks pregnant with our twin boys and a busy mother to our 5 year old daughter. My surgeon said had I not found my lump during a self- breast exam, I would have likely died within that year. I had to fight for my life and the lives of my children. In ONE YEAR, I received a total of 8 chemo treatments (3 treatments which I received during pregnancy!), lost my hair, had 4 surgeries (one mastectomy while I was 24 weeks pregnant), birthed our premature twin boys and completed 35 radiation treatments and finally had reconstruction. My plate was full to say the least but we had to get through it all, one moment at a time. It was by God's grace, a positive attitude, strong faith, many prayers, lots of love and support from family, friends, neighbors and strangers, that I am now 10 years cancer-free! My hair has returned, scars have healed--no one "sees" my story anymore but I share it when I can to offer hope to others. I can happily share that my sister is also still cancer-free, my busy 10 year old boys are healthy and thriving and my beautiful daughter is almost 14. My loving husband, Patrick, who continues to be "my rock", told me then "Everything is going to be all right." We had to keep our faith that God would carry out His own plan for me and in His own time. We would learn to recognize the lessons and blessings which would come from this experience.
On the flip side of this experience, I have to say nothing really prepares you for this life changing disease. I had to learn that: 1) I could not manage it all by myself. 2) I needed to let people (even strangers) into my life to help me. 3) As a mother, I had to fight with EVERYTHING I had. 4) Life continues on even while you have cancer. 5) Cancer was an incredible lonely experience despite having so many people descend on your life. One must really develop a deep and personal relationship with their God. I prayed to Him often -- in the quiet of 3 a.m. feedings, with the hum of the scanning machines, in the ordinary gifts, in the weakest and scary times but most importantly, in my most thankful times.
The Hope for Two network is a great support system for information and provides a lot of hope for us to know that we are not alone. I am proud to share my story and am honored to be a support woman for those of you facing a similar diagnosis. Let my story inspire you, not for anything I have done, but for knowing that no matter how unbearable something is, you are loved, supported and strong, even on your weakest of days.