At the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I found a lump in my breast seven months before I was diagnosed. I was taking off my sports bra and I noticed a lump the size of an eyeball in my left breast, so I called and set an appointment. At the appointment the Doctor felt it and took a needle to my breast to see if any liquid would come out…no liquid came out so she said I was fine…NO WORRIES, but she still wanted to schedule an ultrasound to check and see what it was. I went and they checked and said it was a “fiber” something, I can never remember the name. I really wanted it to be taken out, so they put me on a waiting list. Seven months go by and I got NO call. While I was working at the restaurant I received a huge hug from one of my regulars and it HURT, after that I noticed the lump had gotten bigger. I scheduled another appointment and they did a lumpectomy. They told me that it was nothing to worry about and we scheduled to get my results for the following Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014.
I decided to go to the appointment alone. The Dr. took a long time to come in…I was her first appointment so I knew before she told me that it was cancer. The Dr. was devastated and I told her, “hey calm down, I can die on the drive home.” The cancer was attached to a lymph nod. Not only that, they found more cancer in the same breast. I was told that it was Triple Negative Breast Cancer, which means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene– are not present in the cancer tumor.
As I was leaving the appointment I was swarmed with text messages from my mom, she already knew that something had to be wrong. The rest of my family was all over the place. My 10 year old niece Kaela stayed home from school that day and was home with my mom, and my sisters were both attending a funeral for a friend. I didn’t want to tell my mom with my niece around, I felt like I needed to be more sensitive to her and her feelings or thoughts because she was so young. So I called my best friend Natalie and told her “hey I have cancer, go get Kaela so I can tell my mom. I’ll text you when I’m done.” The rest of the day is kind of a blur. I didn’t realize how much this would affect those around me. It was harder for me to tell them and see their reactions, than it was for me knowing that I had cancer. I was okay with it, but I had no power or control over their thoughts.
Every person responds to the “news” of cancer differently. Some people stick around and some people can’t handle it. My mom was my ROCK! She attended every appointment with me, she was my memory during chemo and every Dr.’s appointment, I relied on her, and she never left my side.
The day before chemo I shaved my head with my family and friend. I didn’t want cancer to take my hair, so we shaved it! Everyone got a turn. It’s all about making memories for me, even during the hard stuff.
Chemotherapy started December 18th, five days before my 30th birthday. It was a big bust, but I can say I got cancer off of the “bucket list.” I would start chemo on Thursday and then I would make sure I went outside on Friday. My 9-year-old niece, Kenzie, didn’t care or maybe didn’t understand how I was feeling, but every Sunday I was forced to take her on a scooter ride. Every Monday I would drive my nieces to school and as soon as I got home my mom would take away my keys. I would have five bad days of chemo, my whole body hurt and it felt like I was just hit by a truck. Every three weeks I’d go in for another round and start this cycle all over again.
Before each round of chemo we took the girls out of school and we would go to Disneyland or go to the beach. I wanted to focus on spending time with my family and making memories.
I had to get hydrated twice a week and it was terrible because I would vomit every time. Lets talk about the pick line, GROSS! Eeby jeebies! BUT it did save me from getting poked with needles on every visit.
My last round of chemo was April 23, 2015.
I had my double mastectomy on June 9th. I had to wait for my liver counts to get better or else I would have had the surgery sooner. They removed 22 lymph nods thinking that the cancer had returned. On June 12th I found out that the cancer was gone! Best day EVER!
My initial reaction to seeing myself without any boobs wasn’t too hard. The scars meant “completion” to me because I knew that the cancer was gone. No one explained to me about the drains so that was probably the hardest part for me to get over. I’m a big time hugger and I couldn’t hug people because there was a possibility of them getting pulled out. The drains just hung from my body and it made me nauseous every time they touched me. Serious eeby jeebies!!
I started my last phase of treatments on September 2nd… 25 rounds of radiation, five days a week, Monday-Friday. Radiation wasn’t too bad, easy in the beginning and then towards the end the burning really started to settle in. It’s like a sunburn…it got really itchy. On October 13th I was finally finished with all of my treatments. Once radiation stopped that was the harder part. When the burns started to heal it was gooey, flaky, and it stung. But it was no comparison to how chemo was.
Let’s talk about the friends that I made during my radiation appointments. The offices were so gloomy and no one ever talked to each other…until I arrived. I was always the youngest person there. I went to every appointment with an entourage. We made the office a more fun place to be…I hope the other patients were ok with it…if not, OH WELL!!
336 days, from diagnosis to my last day of radiation, I was still able to live a full life. I attended softball games, I continued working and serving tables (except during chemo), I went to theme parks, Vegas, I started exercising again, and I created the memories that I wanted. I spent my time with the people that I love, and that’s what was most important to me.
I tried to stay positive and trust in God’s plan for me and what He wanted to do with my life. I trusted in His will and not my own.
What I want people to take away from my story or journey is that cancer, no matter what kind it is, is not your death ticket. Now I want to help others look past the fear of what cancer looks like in our society, although terrible, there still exists that “silver lining.” Cancer opened my eyes to a new perspective of life. I can now see the positives in all of the negative. Life is short, you’re not promised your next breath. Don’t worry about tomorrow, LIVE for TODAY. These are MY STRIPES.