The call came from my internist when I was in a business meeting. My internist told me I had breast cancer. She said, “We will work it out together.” I knew I had someone beside me.
All my life I religiously had annual mammograms, including a few false alarms. Given that no one on my mother’s side had cancer, I wasn’t supposed to get it. At 67, I expected another false alarm. But it was cancer and an uncommon type at that – triple negative. Driving home, I seemed to be on automatic pilot, trying to convince myself that the diagnosis was a mistake.
My much-loved husband, Myles, was a wonderful support. He was with me all the way, from the first meeting with the oncologist and the other physicians (I did need him at the doctors’ appointments to help me remember what they said), through all the tests, the lumpectomy, the radiation treatments and the aftermath of that, the support group, the hospital Navigator program, and the emotions of my cancer journey. I was busy— going from one appointment to another, working, and getting tired from radiation, although Myles and I had good times at my radiation appointments five days a week. We did jigsaw puzzles, talked to the other patients and heard their stories, ate snacks and laughed. It was good to laugh.
I discovered a lot of support in Fort Collins for women with breast cancer—support groups, neighbors, friends, relatives, and service providers. The caring from physicians, nurses and other hospital staff was wonderful. Everyone I encountered taught me about hope, positive attitude and maintaining a sense of humor. So many kind people walked with me through this time in my life. I was overwhelmed by the generosity, graciousness, and good wishes.
Inside I was somewhat of a different Me than the one on the outside. I cried, didn’t sleep at times, wondered what all this meant, and questioned my future. With all that, I also knew I would fight, and fight I did. Myles made sure I ate the right foods; I went back to exercising as soon as I was able; I continued working every day; I prayed; I had loads of hope; I found inner strength. And by the time all the treatments had concluded I had gotten back my confidence and spirit until…
December, 2014, just three years later, when I participated in genetic testing and learned I had a defective gene, BRCA1. A mammogram revealed another, but different, cancer in the same breast as before. This time I was a different Me inside and out. Myles and I made some tough decisions about treatment. I chose to have a mastectomy and hysterectomy and decided not to have reconstruction nor take the customary five years of pills.
Unlike the first time, I started this second journey with confidence, hope, spirit and fight. I discovered that hope is a powerful weapon against fear and sadness. I will never let go of it.