I got the news in March of last year, while on a field trip with my son’s second grade class. There had been some “areas of concern” with my routine mammogram and the doctor called to give me the results of the second, more detailed mammogram. When the doctor called, I explained that I was chaperoning a bunch of kids, but I could talk. She insisted that I call her back when I had some privacy. That’s when I knew.
After my diagnosis, I was surprised and humbled by the amount of support that was offered to me, often from unexpected places. One day, my son came home from school with a beautiful quilt that one of the classroom moms made for me. Her mother was a four-time cancer survivor.
The number of people who reached out was pretty amazing. And the number of women who shared that they, too, had gone through this helped me to see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I, like them, would get through this.
I joined Kaia ten months prior to my diagnosis, so I was in fairly good shape going into my surgeries, which helped in my recovery. My Kaia tribe was supportive emotionally as well as practically. More importantly, they gave me something to reach for. One of my main goals after surgery was to get back to my Kaia workouts and do a push up. I had a bilateral mastectomy, so upper body exercises were difficult, but the coaches were great about modifications. What a feeling of satisfaction when I did my first real post-surgery push-up. I felt like I was getting my body back.
I am extremely lucky that my cancer was detected early, through a mammogram. Although I checked myself regularly, there was no way I would have found it with a self-exam—even when the mammogram showed the cancer’s exact location, the doctors were unable to feel the lump by palpating my breast. And because my cancer was invasive, the longer I waited to have it removed, the further it would have been allowed to travel to other parts of my body. By the time it was discovered, it had invaded my breast, but the rest of my body wasn’t compromised.
I also did not have to go through radiation and chemo, which used to be routine. The unfortunate reality is that breast cancer is so prevalent (one in eight women will develop it in her lifetime), and so many women have come before me, that the treatment plans are much more tailored to each type of cancer. Because of the brave patients before me, I was able to forgo some of the most difficult parts of treatment. And for that, I’m extremely grateful.
Although I’m cancer-free now, my journey isn’t over. With the meds I’m on, there is an 8% chance of the cancer recurring in the next ten years, which means I have to be hyper-vigilant about examining the little bit of breast tissue that I still have.
It’s a cliché, but being a survivor has allowed me to worry less about small things and focus more on what’s important to me, which is my family and friends. It’s unfortunate that I was only able to gain this insight after being handed a cancer diagnosis, but I’m grateful to have learned the lesson.