When I heard the words, “you have breast cancer”, my life changed from that moment on. It was all I could think about. It consumed all my waking thoughts. I was scared and felt alone. I kept thinking what’s in store for me? Will I lose my hair? Am I going to die? I was a single mom and worried about what was going to happen to my children if I died. There was no family history of breast cancer. I did not have a lump. It was found during my yearly mammogram, just a small spec. I cried on my way home from the doctor and thought about who I could call. I did not want to alarm anyone until I had more info so I kept it to myself.
My biopsy was scheduled for the next week. An incredible, wonderful nurse held my hand during this procedure and told me I could squeeze as hard as I wanted, and I did squeeze hard. A chip was implanted where the cancer was detected and the lumpectomy was scheduled for the following week. When I told my family & friends about the surgery everyone had tears in their eyes. I decided I could not talk to anyone about how I felt because I did not want to see the tears, so again I kept my feelings to myself. Though everyone was supportive I still couldn’t bear worrying them. I especially kept my fears from my children and tried to be strong, but inside I was losing control. The man I was dating at the time patted me on the head like a puppy and told me everything would be okay. I wanted to slap him.
On the day of my surgery my family and friends were gathered around my bed in pre-op. They held hands and prayed for me and for a favorable outcome. While we were praying, my surgeon—a skilled, kind and compassionate man—stepped into the cubicle. Instead of leaving, he joined in the payer. I knew right then and there that I was going to be ok. That I would do whatever was necessary to survive and beat this cancer. It was the best possible outcome, Stage one no chemo just radiation. We caught it early!
Two days after surgery a port was inserted under my arm. It was a new device not yet used by the hospital. The manufacturer of the device was present during the insertion. I felt blessed to be a part of this new and innovative device. It had 5 portals instead of the normal one. The 4 other portals protected the healthy cells around where the cancer was detected during radiation treatments. Because of this new device I was able to choose between radiation treatments daily for 8 weeks or 3 times a day for 3 weeks. I chose the latter because I just wanted to get it over with.
During my radiation treatments I still worked full time. I work for an amazing company that was also supportive during my treatments. The cancer center was a 45 minute drive from my house. In the morning I drove to the center then went to work. At lunch time I drove to the center for treatment then again back to work. I went for my final treatment of the day after work. Every time I went my dressing was changed, an MRI was done and then the radiation treatment began.
By the beginning of the third week I was tired of the driving back and forth and also tired from the treatments. I had had enough. I called the center to cancel my appointment the morning of my third week. I kept telling myself it was okay that I had enough treatments, that I would be fine. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
The nurse was very concerned and asked me why I was cancelling. I told her the truth. She then asked me where I was and I told her I was in the parking lot of the cancer center. She immediately came out to my car and sat in the front seat next to me. She hugged me then told me to think of this time in my life as if I were on a journey. She said to imagine that at the end of my journey I would be vacationing in a beautiful spot having the time of my life. But along the way I may run out of gas, be detoured or have a flat tire but to just keep the destination in mind and the trip wouldn’t seem so bad. Of course, I returned to treatment.
I am now 7 years cancer free and have so many wonderful people to thank for keeping me safe along my journey. I know that my journey was not as rough as so many others that I know who have or are dealing with cancer. I was extremely blessed that it was found early through my annual mammogram. The moral of my story is, (there is always a moral of the story) — Don’t neglect your annual mammograms and reach out for help along your journey. There are so many wonderful people that want to help, you just need to reach out.
Sandi Bergquist, Buffalo Grove, IL