Overcomer! My story of breast cancer.

“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it  will become part of someone else’s survival guide.

One of my friends sent me this quote back in June when I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  At that time, I didn’t feel like I was ready to overcome anything and I thought this diagnosis was going to change everything about my fairly normal life. This quote did give me hope and also made me realize how important it would be for me to eventually share my story in hopes to raise awareness and promote self-care.

Family beach trip

So, here is what I have learned.

Know your body and always see a doctor for any suspicion. 

Back in 2010, I had some nipple discharge, so my ob/gyn sent me to get a mammogram and breast MRI.  My MRI indicated an area of abnormality which ended up being atypia. Therefore, I have been getting yearly mammograms and MRIs to monitor my breast health.  

In May 2019, It was time for my yearly mammogram and MRI. I had felt a very small lump in my left breast and my doctor expected that it was scar tissue from previous surgeries I had to remove atypical cells.  I had also been having some breast pain but I chalked it up to my time of the month or having too much caffeine.

My mammogram showed no indication of breast cancer.

None.

My MRI showed a highly suspicious area which was later confirmed as breastncancer after a biopsy. As women, we often don’t put ourselves first.  Make your health a priority and know your body.  We know we have to do self-exams but we also need to do them otherwise we wouldn’t know when something feels different.

At a Nats game

Cancer doesn’t change everything.

I am a teacher and my doctor called me on the last day of school with my biopsy results which confirmed cancer.

I was shocked and devastated.

One of my initial thoughts was-my poor kids, they are going to have an awful summer (They did NOT have an awful summer and neither did I-more on that later).  My first two weeks of summer were filled with intense appointments-not my typical summer checkups but instead CT scans, PET scans, additional breast biopsies, and genetic testing. 

I felt overwhelmed, worried, and like my life had been turned upside down.

Then I felt angry that this was the way I was spending my summer. I wanted so badly for it to be all over and it seemed like there was still so much to overcome.

Once I had my partial mastectomy on July 2nd and the cancer was removed, I finally felt a sense of calm

After a couple weeks of taking it easy, my life started to become normal again. I thought cancer would change everything but I still hauled my kids to the pool most days.  We still went to playgrounds, splash parks, movies, and took afternoon trips to Target. We spent a week at the beach with family. If you saw me out and about, you wouldn’t think I had breast cancer.  

Life went on and I embraced the normalcy that had been taken away from me.

What I want to remember in the future when I face another challenge is that it is temporary. When I finally realized that cancer wasn’t going to take away so much of who I am and what I do, I became a lot more courageous.

Kids playing on beach
My girls, Ainsley (6) and Sadie (3) had an awesome summer and loved going to the beach.

Relinquish control and start to put yourself first.

After my partial mastectomy, I was pretty sore and tired.  I had no choice but to rest and decided to focus on taking care of myself and healing.  This was a new role for me but it had to happen and I let it happen.

Were things always done the way I would have done it? No. But for once, I let myself not care and I focused on me. 

After a month of recovery from surgery and enjoying my summer vacation, it was time to start chemotherapy. I remember leaving the beach and I immediately started crying on the car ride home because I knew what was ahead.

Chemo scared me. 

I had this image of being holed up in bed for days at a time and I worried I wouldn’t be able to do anything. Luckily for me, chemo hasn’t been too difficult.

I have had fatigue especially after the third round but I was once again surprised at how normal my life has been and all the things I still do while going through chemo. I have had to once again relinquish some control and make myself rest when I am feeling exhausted. 

Chemo day 1
First chemo treatment. I’m so lucky to be able to wear a “cold cap” to minimize hair loss.

Gratitude takes commitment and is a thoughtful, slow practice. 

I had always considered myself a gracious person and often tried to set aside time each day to practice gratitude. 

When you’re faced with cancer, it can be hard to feel grateful. However, I learned that there was so much to be grateful for. 

So much kindness and care was given to me from family, friends, doctors, nurses, and even people who hardly knew me. Breast cancer has made me more grateful because I have experienced so much love and care.

It was hard not to be positive and optimistic when I saw so much good. 

Taking time to be intentional with recognizing what I was thankful for helped shift my mindset. 

I recognized my mindset was shifting when I would get health bills and immediately think, I’m so lucky I have good insurance. Instead of being sad after doctor appointments, I would think, I’m so lucky to have amazing doctors that are so smart and innovative and so kind that they remind me of my best friends.

People want to help you.

Like I said before, I have witnessed so much good over the past few months.  At first, I was very overwhelmed by all the support. People would ask what I needed and I wasn’t even sure what I needed. 

If you know someone facing a similar battle and you want to help them, some things I loved receiving were:

  • Trader Joe’s rich hydrating face sheet masks,
  • a cozy blanket,
  • comfortable pajamas,
  • gift cards for take out,
  • magazines,
  • and of course wine for when I felt good enough to have a glass! 

I loved light meals like soups and salads. For me, I felt silly accepting meals when I felt good enough to grocery shop and cook so kind notes of encouragement were always so special and meaningful to receive.

I have found that it is important to figure out how the person is dealing with their obstacle.

While I didn’t post things on Facebook, I started sharing my story on Instagram and before that, I was very open about sharing my news. Some people are totally opposite and want to be private. There are people who have seen me in the last few months and never asked how I was doing. At first, I was a little surprised and hurt. But I am learning that maybe those people were just giving me space and privacy. So, think about the person and respond accordingly.

In my opinion though, you will never regret saying something like you’ve been in my thoughts or just how are you?

 Resources for You

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Cancer Care Support Resources

Know Your Girls Resource Guide


Connect with Lauren over on Instagram.

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