At age 39, following occurrences of pain in my right breast as well as a confirmation via biopsy, I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal breast cancer. My cancer was originally diagnosed with no lymph involvement, but post mastectomy there was cancer found in the lymph under my right arm. My cancer is hormone receptive, so after chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation, I am currently, and will continue to receive hormone therapy both systemic and ovarian suppressive until age 50.
I am blessed. My work family immediately took action, setting a plan in place for my support the day of my diagnosis. My biological family committed to weekly support through meals, light household chores, and visits. My household family allowed me to talk about, feel, and question anything aloud. My classroom family (10 year olds) supported by our building principal and guidance counselor, helped us all to normalize treatment. Families in my school district showed their support with food, gas cards, restaurant and grocery cards, words of encouragement and an overwhelming show of solidarity. I was lucky to work throughout treatment, but still took some days to rest. Two incredible substitute teachers shared their planning with me in order to provide support for students so that academic excellence was an ongoing focus as well as an expectation, while allowing students to feel that their teachers were always available when needed.
Finally, my medical needs were met with exemplary care by the staff of Green Bay Oncology and Radiology at St. Vincent's Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital and Prevea Physical Therapy, all three located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. From the biopsy nurses who cracked jokes to take my mind off the pain, to the admitting nurse who calmly talked me through what would happen when I needed hospitalization, I have come to deeply respect those men and women who daily stood next to my family against what often seemed impossible.
In official remission as of July 2015, I know that those values World Cancer Day is working to spread are imperative in our fight against cancer. The value dearest to my heart is that which will allow for screening of cancer as well as preventative education. Thanks to the constant diligent work of physicians caring for me from birth, I practiced self breast exams routinely. Seeing a physician when I began experiencing pain in my breast along with a small bump allowed for less than a month between detection and treatment. Prevention saved my life.
Cancer took parts of my body, but the experience of fighting against the disease illuminated incredible gifts in the form of people who loved and cared for me.