My story….. hmmmm….. Well, I was originally diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in March 2010. I had a mastectomy of my right breast and put on chemo. It happened so fast, I almost didn’t know what was happening. I have 3 children that despite my health still needed to be taken care of. At the time of my diagnosis they were ages 13, 8, and 6. My ex-husband tried to help but his health wasn’t so good either. But we made it through and as time goes, my appointments grew further and further apart until it seemed I was in remission. In July 2014, I made the move from small town (Grants, NM) back to big city (Tempe, AZ). I thought since my health was doing well and the limited possibilities of employment in Grants that we would be better off in Arizona. I was excited to be coming home, since Phoenix area is where I grew up. I had dreams of getting a job and taking care of my kids. I applied for job after job after job. I found nothing in my field, accounting, so I ended up taking a cashier position just so I could be working. I moved into customer service for a local urgent care clinic. During this time, I couldn’t get rid of a cold and was diagnosed with cold, flu, RSV, and finally pneumonia. It wasn’t easy but I pushed through and kept working. The kids were very active and keeping me busy. My ex-husband’s health wasn’t getting any better. Now, about September 2014, I noticed I had a lump growing on the side of my left neck. Doctors kept saying it was infected lymph nodes and gave me antibiotics. The lump kept growing and was basically freaking me out. Finally, I demanded a biopsy be done. It was growing and no amount of antibiotic medication was helping. So, when the biopsy was done, it was confirmed to be cancer again. My world seemed to crumble at my feet. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer which had moved to my neck, liver, lungs and possibly my bones. So next came the lumpectomy and then more chemo. My kids still needed me, so despite treatment I had to keep up with them. I had problems with chemo, but who hasn’t, right? I kept getting pneumonia, and the pain was sometimes unbearable. So, for most of 2015 and 2016, I have been fighting. April 2016, I was again in the hospital ER and ended up in respiratory distress and intubated. After a week, I started to come out of it and tube was removed but I had to stay in ICU due to other infections. I was released and home for 4 days before ending up back in the ER. I was then moved to the rehabilitation center to continue antibiotic treatments. As my days were getting better, I noticed a headache that just wouldn’t go away and I was on some heavy-duty pain meds. So, a brain scan was done and a lesion was found on my brain. It was so small that to do biopsy seemed impractical, so they called it a brain tumor and put me on radiation treatment. As this treatment ended and it seemed the lesion was caught, I was hit with news that a new spot had turned up on my liver and a new one began. So, I started a new round of chemo. All through this, my kids still needed a parent, and it was hard but we made it work. Money has been tight since I am on disability. My kids were on social security under my ex-husbands disability. My ex ended up moving to AZ. His health was really bad. In March 2015, he went to ER and was being treated for issues regarding his renal failure and his heart. Then suddenly he had a stroke and I had to make the hardest decision ever and disconnected the machines. He passed away March 8, 2015. My kids had so much negativity at this time but we worked through it slowly. So now, I am undergoing chemo and all the side effects that go with it. I am struggling financially. And, on most days it feels this ill never ends. I have us on a budget, but you cannot always account for the misc. stuff that just pops up. Kids need clothes or other items related to their schooling or activities. I still need to provide a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. I just keep trying to get just a little bit ahead but then there seems to not be a way. Looking at what I bring in vs. what we have to pay the budget is never met. Right now, due to holidays and birthdays, I am struggling to get pantry refilled and my vehicle maintenance. I have spring activities for kids starting that require uniforms, shoes, equipment etc. I must keep them busy so they stay kids and don’t just act as my caregiver. Both my kids have stepped it up helping me. I still just want to get a job and take care of my kids. We live with my older daughter, Seanna, and she takes care of my medication and makes sure I eat. She knows how to make me feel better when I’m down. My kids and granddaughter (pictured) have brought me so much joy during this time. My advice to newly diagnosed patients is to try to develop a support system that works for them. It can be family, friends, support groups – just a place they can share and talk about how they feel. Having that support system gives you a a reason to keep going.
About the Author: Randy LeJeune
I'm me. I'm short.