“I am a survivor.” Saying that still seems weird. About a year and a half ago at age 40, I had my “40-year-old” mammogram. And after two biopsies, I received that dreaded call telling me I had cancer. I was diagnosed with Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)- Stage 0 Breast Cancer. That call still echoes in my mind on occasion.
After multiple meetings with doctors, many decisions on treatment options and multiple surgeries, I am 100% healthy and a survivor because a few things that I want to share with you. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I want to share my story in hopes that it encourages at least one person to pick up the phone and make an appointment.
I am a Survivor Because of Early Detection
Early detection is key. I am a firm believer in this. I’m not just talking about mammograms; I am talking about all the yearly checks ups we need to have. Mammograms just happen to be one of those things we need to do. When I turned 40, I made the appointment and went.
Yes, I received news I didn’t want to hear. But I am so thankful that it was caught early and that I went to the appointment. What if I didn’t make that appointment? What if I put it off like so many of us do. We are just too busy – I’ll call next week and then next week turns into next month and so on and so forth.
Regular screenings save lives. Get in the habit of making your annual appointments ahead of time. Listen to your body and talk to your doctor if something is bothering you. Get over the fear of going and make the time to go. Take care of yourself!
I am a Survivor Because of My Health
I would say I am a healthy person. I take care of myself. Yes, I indulge on occasion, but overall, I exercise and eat healthy regularly. Which, when I received the call, I was surprised by my diagnosis especially since breast cancer does not run in my family. I thought – “What me? But I am active, healthy and young.” It doesn’t matter; that’s why my statement above is so important – regular screenings and mammograms can save lives.
On the flip side, being healthy overall made the road to recovery a lot easier. Health and attitude go hand in hand. I remained strong physically and mentally throughout my diagnosis and surgeries. From a physical perspective, I kept my regular fitness routine until the surgeries. And then I started walking (that was all I could do) after each surgery as soon as I could. I got outside, put my headphones on and walked. Walking not only helped my body heal physically; it helped me personally.
I am a Survivor Because of a Positive Attitude
It’s easy to let the fear and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis take over your being. I did everything I could not let that happen. I knew I had to remain positive and strong in order to get through this journey. And that’s what it became to me. This wasn’t “it”…yes, it was scary, but I knew this was just a minor bump in the road. You have to move past the fear. You have to fight.
I would read positive affirmations on a daily basis (still do), I would listen to all kinds of TED talks and other podcasts, and I listened to music that made me feel happy. Yeah, the surgeries sucked, but in the end, I would survive. I remained as positive as I could be for my boys and me, and I tried to keep life as normal as possible. We all have tough situations to go through in life. It’s all a matter of how we deal with these circumstances. When life gives you lemons, there is always a way to make lemonade; you just have to find it.
I am a Survivor Because of My Tribe; My Family & Friends
And last but certainly not least, I am a survivor because of the love and support from the people around me. Having an amazing support system helped me focus on what was important at that time- my health and recovery. I didn’t have to worry about the boys because I knew they were taken care of (and having a lot of fun). I couldn’t have gotten through the last year without those amazing people. There are no words I can use to express the gratitude I feel and the appreciation I have for such beautiful souls in my life. We are truely blessed. My tribe helped me heal and helped me survive.
It’s been a year and a half now, and life is pretty much back to normal. I wake up every morning and thank God for all the goodness in my life and for my health. I remain active and healthy and make my yearly checkups a priority as you should too.