It was June 2017 and by chance, I found a large soft lump in my breast while showering because one day I just happened to use my hand and not the shower poof I usually use. Within a week of having a diagnostic mammogram/ultrasound and biopsy, my OB diagnosed me with invasive lobular carcinoma of the breast. I had a bilateral mastectomy in August 2017 and stated 4 months of chemo the first week of October 2017. I am currently in the middle of chemotherapy treatments.
The lifestyle change that has helped me the most has been the ability to let go of my attempts to plan everything, know everything, and control everything in my life. I am a project manager and have historically used those skills to manage my life, my family’s life; anything to minimize surprises and unexpected issues. But I have quickly learned that breast cancer just doesn’t work that way. What you THINK you know, may not really be the reality. What you THINK you can plan out for the future; can actually change on a dime. It made SUCH a difference when I stopped planning for the FUTURE and just started LIVING for the NOW. I also learned to depend wholly on my faith in God like I have never done before. That is essential to my mental and spiritual well-being right now. I now TRUST in God more than I ever have, and it is the most freeing, satisfying, and calming thing that I could have done during this entire experience. Finally, I also started letting people help me. I am a pretty independent lady and like to do things for myself, and historically didn’t accept help very much. However, I have learned that it is a beautiful thing to let people, accept their help when they offer it and that doing so opens doors to the development of newer and deeper relationships with people in your life. It also helps others not feel so helpless when they care about you and want to do something – anything – to make your life just a bit easier. Another big change was I stopped worrying about what others thought about me and just felt more confident in knowing that all I need to do is make decisions and take actions that I know are best for ME and my FAMILY. What others think about is no longer my concern. That has been very freeing as well.
My support comes from many different places. My faith in God is number one. I have to say that I have not been stellar in this department in the past, but when I got diagnosed with breast cancer, the beautiful feeling of putting it all in Gods hands made all the difference.
Next, the support of my amazing family – my husband has been incredibly supportive and loving. My four-year-old son, Gabriel, is just the light of my life and he provides me with joy that fuels me every single day – fuels me with his unending joy and zest for life, love and tons of laughter. He wakes up with a huge smile on his face, and truly lives life to its fullest every day. Gabriel is on the autism spectrum and that amazing little boy lives his life more fully and more joyfully than anyone I have ever met. He teaches me daily that the most important thing in life is to LIVE, LOVE, and LAUGH TODAY, enjoy today, and see the blessings in TODAY and that is what I do—especially now.
Our parents, friends, and family have all rallied around us providing us with support, childcare, help to go to appointments etc. They are AMAZING!
The last area that has been really instrumental from a support perspective is the support I have received from a couple of other breast cancer survivors who have walked this path before me. They have been INCREDIBLE sources of information, emotional support, inspiration, etc. One is a person I met casually through a friend who reached out to me when she found out about my diagnosis and she checks in with me regularly, very openly shares her experience, directs me to great resources she has found over the years of her journey, etc. She also connected me to a beautiful private Facebook group of young, Los Angeles area breast cancer survivors who have been wonderful amazing supports as well. Their input, advice, recommendations have helped so very much.
I also would like to mention that the organizations like this one, the American Cancer Society, etc., have provided invaluable services to me such as free wigs, wig fittings, and education, resources, etc., and I have started to discover them and take advantage of them. Having these available has been so helpful—especially for areas where I feel really uneducated such as how to pick, wear, and care for a wig. It just provides options to me that I wasn’t aware I would have, and with the high cost of cancer treatment itself, providing them at no cost makes all the difference for my family.
I heard about the Breast Cancer Charities of America from a website called breast cancer freebies.com. It was a really helpful resource that provided a one-stop website for multiple other resources. I was so pleased to receive the package from your organization. You provided really wonderful products that will help me with a lot of the little things that occur as a result of treatment—the skin changes, sensitivities, etc.—and having them available to try as remedies are really helpful. There are so many things we have to track and think about while going through treatment—it can be so overwhelming. Having these products at hand really helps. I read the booklet and loved the stories people shared and was inspired to share my own. I want to give back as others have and continue to give to me during this process. I think what you are doing is so much needed and wanted you to know how very much I appreciate what you do, the products you provide, and the resources you make available to breast cancer survivors. Since receiving your package, I learned of your Facebook page and am now following that so I can get your posts, inspirational stories, etc. I really look forward to seeing those posts going forward. The lovely products sent to me were amazing. I have started to use them and really enjoy them. Please thank Burt’s Bees for what they have donated. I find their products work well for me so far and it’s nice to know that my changing skin and sensitivity works well with their products. I really appreciate that they are offered.
My best advice for anyone going through breast cancer is this: Breast cancer may have happened to you, but you definitely can still LIVE, LOVE, and LAUGH through it. Things may be different and more complicated during treatment, but life goes on and YOU go on. You are a warrior, you are a fighter, and you are much stronger than you might even imagine. Depend on your faith, depend on your family, and let those around you help you. You WILL get through it and you can still find blessings everywhere around you if you just look for them. My approach is to look at this as an opportunity—to grow my faith, to deepen my relationships, to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and to start to serve others who also need my support.
Breast cancer doesn’t define us. It may be something going on in our lives right now, but how we decide to react to it, handle it, live through it—THAT is what defines us and our character.