Linking up this post from last October to celebrate my friend Cindy. Since it is Breast Cancer awareness month I thought having some perspective on what it might be like to be diagnosed and how you can best help a friend going through breast cancer would be helpful.
Today is the first installment of the Tuesday Toast! I will be giving a Toast to an incredible woman that I have crossed paths with several Tuesdays a month.
It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I felt it fitting to give a toast to a sweet beautiful friend of mine who was diagnosed with breast cancer this past February.
What were your emotions when you received the call with the news you had breast cancer? Pure shock. It felt like a death sentence.
How was your breast cancer discovered? Routine mammogram. Never felt a lump… Doctors never felt a lump.
How did you tell your family? My husband was at home when I got the call so he knew when I knew. My husband then called my oldest son, an Engineer in Houston, and told him. He asked him not tell anybody until we told his little brother. My youngest son plays division 1 baseball and was just starting his spring season. We waited 2 weeks until he got his first official innings as a D1 baseball pitcher (where he was quite successful) and then we broke the news to him at dinner.
What stage was your breast cancer and what was the course of action? I was lucky because we caught it early. I was stage 1b. I had a lumpectomy and 7weeks of radiation. Thanks to new testing, it was determined that the risks of chemo outweighed the benefit so I did not have to have chemo (yay!). I am now on Tamoxifen for at least 5 years.
How did you feel during treatment? What were some of the things that helped you get through the tough days of your treatment? I mostly felt just fine in the beginning. As expected I was sore after surgery. When I first started radiation I was given a list of what to expect. After the first week, I thought the side effects must only effect weak people because I felt fine. Radiation did not hurt. I equate it to getting an xray. Two weeks in I my skin was a little burned but not too bad. Three weeks in and I’m completely exhausted…no energy to do anything. Four weeks in I get a respitory virus that literally sends me to bed for 4 weeks.
What advice would you give to someone just learning they have breast cancer? Stay off the internet! It’s hard to do. But usually the only people that post things are the ones that have bad experiences!
Did you change anything about your diet? Add a fitness regimen or vitamins?
I was already somewhat active but I am more diligent in my exercise because the side effects of the drugs require me to do so to minimize the joint soreness. I had to up my calcium and magnesium intake because the drugs deplete my body of those. I also now take glucosamine to help with the joint soreness.
People always want to help but often it’s hard to ask. What are some things that people did for you that helped during the time of your surgery or treatment?
This is an area where I learned the most! More about what NOT to do than what to do! I am not one that knows how to ask for help. But several of my friends did not wait for me to ask…they just showed up! I learned not to say “let me know if I can help” but “would you rather have chicken soup or king ranch casserole delivered tonight?” Two of my girlfriends showed up the day before surgery just to hang out, watch movies, eat and laugh. It was the biggest distraction and the best medicine! I was surprised at how many well intentioned folks told me about somebody they knew who had cancer…and died! This is NOT something we want or need to hear! I got tired of hearing….”you don’t look sick” or “you got to keep your hair so it must not have been that bad”. Or the absolute worse…..from close friends and some family members who must not have know what to do or say….so I heard nothing (and a random text message doesn’t count!). Being present is the BEST thing a person can do to help another in a time of distress.
How long have you been cancer free? I am not considered cancer free yet.
How has having a cancer diagnose changed you forever?
I am most definitely changed forever. Those three words “you have cancer” changes you forever. I’ve always been healthy… Now every bump and ache scares me. I made an “exit plan” for my guys. I now have a list covering all the things I take care of in our business and household in case I’m no longer here. I’ve decided not to put off things because it wasn’t rational! I’ve decided to spend some money on fun things instead of saving it all (not too the extreme though!). I’ve chosen not to spend another minute thinking about the folks we don’t matter to anyway. I’ve decided to give all the glory to God through good and bad, laugh more, enjoy both my sons more, embrace being a somewhat empty nester, and check a few things off my bucket list! I also strongly encourage people to get a dog because being loved unconditionally by a Labradoodle has been a blessing this year!
Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your story and participating in my first Tuesday Toast. I have learned so much from hearing your struggles this past year not just about the treatment you went through but the emotional roller coaster you have battled. You are a rock star!
If you have celebrated your 40th birthday or have a family history of breast cancer make sure to schedule your mammogram annually. Nothing is ever full proof but women are diagnosed every day based on the results of their mammograms. Self exams are also super important….no one knows your breast like you do. I schedule my mammogram every year the week of my birthday as a gift to myself and my family.