In August 2014 I started experiencing on and off leaking from my right nipple. It was only happening about once or twice a month. My sister, Morgan was pushing me to go to the doctor but of course I was putting it off. During those 6 months, my husband, Danny and I were trying to get pregnant but were unsuccessful. I thought that maybe the leaking was a hormone imbalance and that was why I wasn’t getting pregnant. So I made an appointment with my gynecologist because I was due to see her for my yearly exam. I told her what was happening. She examined both of my breasts but didn’t feel anything. She ordered blood work and a mammogram. The blood work I had done right away. My doctor called and said that my blood work looked good. Next step was the mammogram. My appointment was January 28th. I wasn’t really too nervous about the mammogram. I was more concerned with how much it was going to cost. The mammogram and the ultrasound showed 2 spots. The doctor did say “I am worried it could be cancer”. I think I was in shock. I kept it together until I got to the car. Then I lost it. How could this be? I am only 30 years old. I knew I couldn’t call anyone because I was too much of a mess. Thankfully I only lived about 2 minutes away and when I pulled into my driveway, my husband flew out the front door and met me at my car where I was in tears. He knew something was wrong because I was gone for so long. I updated him with what happened and that my biopsy was scheduled for 9am the next day.
Thursday, January 29th I went in for the biopsy. She assured me that she would call me on Friday with the results. So Friday came and it felt like the longest day ever. She told me that she would be calling after 4pm. My sister Morgan and niece Mykenzi came over. My husband, sister, niece and I were watching Ellen when the phone rang. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up. She started with telling me that one of the spots came back precancerous and that it was nothing to worry about. Then she said, “are you alone?” I told her who was with me. She said “can you put me on speaker so they can hear this too?” I knew at that point it was bad. She said that I had cancer and I didn’t hear much after that. I just started crying and went through about a box of Kleenex. My parents were on their way to my house so I waited for them to get there before telling them the news. That weekend was a complete blur.
Monday morning I met with a nurse navigator (a nurse in charge of my case and assists me through the process). She explained what was happening next and got me set up with appointments to see the oncologist and surgeon. At that point I was told that I was stage 1 and that I would need a lumpectomy and radiation. At that point I just didn’t want to do chemo. I didn’t want to lose my hair. So I felt pretty strong and confident. I saw the oncologist, Dr. Wang on Friday Feb 6th. I could never have been prepared for what she told me that day. The biopsy came back and it was HER2+ which means the cancer is driven by my hormones. That it was very aggressive and that I need to start chemo ASAP. The worst part was that because it was driven by my hormones, she highly recommended that I don’t get pregnant. EVER!!!! That if I were to get pregnant, the chances of the cancer coming back were very high. With my husband by my side, we both cried together. His response was “it’s ok, we will adopt”. He was my rock from day one. Dr. Wang then told us that we could see a fertility specialist and maybe try to save my eggs before starting chemo. So she referred us to Dr. Potter and we saw him on Tuesday, February 10th. They went over the process with Danny and I and with the approval of Dr. Wang we could start fertility treatment the very next day. So I started fertility injections on Wednesday and that lasted 9 days and on February 21st I went into a procedure where they removed all my eggs and they fertilized them with my husband and the end result is that we have 12 embryos. It’s pretty amazing how in the darkest of times we really had a light that got us through. Knowing that we will have babies someday that will be ours was a huge relief. Even though I can’t carry them, they are still ours.
Now that the fertility was done, I saw Dr. Wang again on Tuesday February 24th. We went over everything and I remember her saying “Are you ready to start this?” I didn’t really know how to answer that question. Wednesday I had my port put in and I started chemo on February 26th.
So let’s recap, in 28 days I found out I have cancer, that I need to do chemo, that I will need to have a mastectomy, that I can’t ever get pregnant, that I have 12 healthy embryos, and had my first round of chemotherapy. I think the month of February will always be a hard month for me.
Chemo was rough. It usually took about 2 days to really hit me. I was then down for a good 5 days. I was sick, weak and achy. The hardest part for me was my appetite. There were days that I couldn’t eat which made me feel even more weak than what I was already feeling. I went back to the infusion center 5 days and 8 days after chemo. I would get fluids and more anti-nausea meds. This helped a lot. After a week I would start to feel a little better. By the second week, I was feeling a lot better but just as I was feeling like myself the next round of chemo would happen. I went in every 3 weeks for 6 treatments. Overall, the treatments went smoothly. I didn’t have any setbacks. My last chemo was June 11th. What a wonderful day that was. My family decorated my room and I had many visitors. The best part was seeing a video that had messages from all my friends and family. That was so emotional for me seeing how my cancer had affected so many people.
I received a blood transfusion after my last treatment and to prepare me for surgery. I had a double mastectomy on July 10th. I had tissue expanders put in during that surgery as well. Recovery from that surgery was so hard. I had no idea it was going to be as hard as it was. I cried almost every day for 3 weeks. I was in pain, uncomfortable, not sleeping well, it was awful. In August, I went in for one of my weekly checkups with the plastic surgeon and he had to take out my expander because the skin was not healing properly. This setback was also really hard for me but I knew it was just minor. As of now, I will need 2 more surgeries.
The support that I received was something I will never forget. My husband was my rock!! My family was always there too. They would all schedule days to be with me after chemo. Danny had the weekend, my mom had Mondays, my sister did Tuesdays, etc. They were amazing. My sister also set up an account for people to donate and help with our financial burden. This was huge. The response we got from everyone was simply overwhelming. My sisters also set up fundraisers at restaurants and a meal prep program. We had good friends that set up a t-shirt fundraiser. The shirts said “I wear pink for My Maggie”. Everyone from my family to my coworkers bought these shirts. Those were also a huge success. I could feel the love completely surrounding me. My friend Mindy was also a big part of my journey. She was ahead of me in the process by a couple months so she had a lot of support and advice. I call her my cancer sister. I couldn’t have gotten through it without her. There has been so many people who have supported me and I simply could never put it into words how grateful I am for the support.
Just 2 weeks after my surgery I was back at work. It was hard but I had so much support around me. I knew when I was diagnosed that once everything was done I would be back coaching volleyball. Thinking about all my players and that they were waiting for me to come back made it easier to fight. I had my moments of being really tired and allowing my body to adjust to be back to “normal” but I was just so happy to be back.
Now that I have survived cancer, I am looking forward to getting back on track with my life and being thankful for each day that God has given me.
I am a WARRIOR and these are my STRIPES.