Some tips I’ve learned along the way – dealing with Breast Cancer.

I am a Breast Cancer survivor, warrior, patient, person that has been through a lot. I don’t like any of those terms. What I do know is I could not have done it without the help of friends, family, medical professionals and people who I did not know then but now consider family. Paying it forward and giving out tips and tricks on how to deal with cancer seems like the right thing to do. It is the least I can do for this wonderful life that I will do anything to keep enjoying.

July 2017, at my daughter’s high school graduation party, I felt a lump. A very distinct, like someone had stuck a marble in my bra kind of lump! How come I had never felt that before? How could I have missed it? There was no question, this was bad. My feeling was not “Oh no, I have a lump”, it was “Oh no,I have cancer!” I knew immediately what it was and that it was bad. 

The mammogram showed nothing, but they could feel it so they knew it was there. So we moved on to an ultrasound. The doctor looked at the screen and turned to me and said “I am sorry, I don’t need a biopsy to tell me this is cancer.” There it is ..you are never the same again.  

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do right now.

-Unknown

So, on my kids first day of school, I had a double mastectomy/reconstruction, followed by 12 weeks of Taxol and 14 Herceptin infusions, ending in October 2018. I had Stage 1 Triple Positive Breast Cancer and it had not reached the lymph nodes. No family history and I had never missed a mammogram. They told me if I had not found it when I did, I would have been Stage 4 in about six weeks. The rate of growth measured that it had only been there about two weeks when I found it!

There are so many more stories to tell: The 4 ports because that was a disaster; baldness, pretending to feel okay; starting a new job that introduced me to LIVESTRONG; wonderful friends who convinced me to join them in starting a Pan Mass Challenge Kids ride to raise funds for Dana Farber Cancer Institute; finding out who your true friends are;  Shannon, who I barely knew and who showed up at my door with presents and a shoulder to cry on; and many more.

I am a very lucky person, I have wonderful family and friends who rallied around me and got me through it. Someone once told me “It’s the club you never wanted to join, but you are in it now and you are not alone and we can do this, if we support each other!”  Now it is my turn to do the same for the people in my life. 

I am a different person, a better person. I know I should say survivor but I still deal with it every day, the PTSD, neuropathy, lymphedema, Tamoxifen and its side effects. Honestly, to say I HAD cancer seems weird. I don’t think I will ever feel that it is truly gone. But my motto the whole time was and still is “Fake it till you make it” and that is what I do for my children, so they don’t have to worry about all this.

Don’t quit. Suffer some now and live the rest of your life a champion

-Muhammad Ali

Now we are coming up on the 5th anniversary of my diagnosis and once again a friend asked me for some tips on how to deal with it all because her friend has just been diagnosed. It really just never ends.

I had made a list of little tips that I would give someone if they asked but now I am just going to put it up here for everyone to see to make it easier. I have created a page on my blog Sunday Chefs that contains some other tips called Cancer Support. I would love to hear any tips that anyone else has.

I will say that the journal was the most practically helpful. Whether it is this one that I made … You Can Do This My Friend, a breast cancer journal and planner to keep your thoughts, questions and life in order or any old notebook that you want to use, it was a lifesaver. You are so tired and overwhelmed, it was so good to be able to look back over and write down questions to ask at appointments and to have everything in one place. I highly recommend that everyone get one, for any health issue they may be dealing with.

Note: 50% of proceeds from You Can Do This My Friend, a breast cancer journal and planner to keep your thoughts, questions and life in order are being donated to Mass General Cancer Center.