#AngieTough A Breast Cancer Fight
“This is a story, all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.” It’s the story of my breast cancer fight. In the late 80’s when I was in my twenties, married with a young son, I found a lump. The OBG/YN said it was a cyst because I said it changed with my cycle. So I carried on with the lump for years. A second son was born. Busy raising two boys the lump just came along with us.
My mom died from breast cancer in the summer of 1993. I was a mess feeling sad and alone for a long time. Young moms need their mom.
The marrage was quickly deteriorating. With my husband cheating and carrying on badly I went back to school, earned my Associate degree in Child Care and my Bachelor degree in Program Administration. I began working full time at a child care center when my youngest son was three years old.
In 2003 my lump and I had our first mammogram. My, still cheating, husband took me in early for the test. They called me back in to have the test done a second time. Apparently the lump was a cyst as long as it changed with my cycle. I took my lump home and, parked in the driveway and cried so uncontrollably that my husband wouldn’t let me go in the house because I would scare the boys. I was so scared of going through what mom went through, without her.
Change is Good
Fast forward to 2010 my husband and I separated. The boys were now young men. My lump and I found a small apartment. For years my lump and I lived there concentrating on healing from the breakup of a 30 year marriage. I read a lot, binged on Netflix a lot, and cried a lot. Four years later I decided it was time to rebuild a social life. I found my love online! The app called Plenty Of Fish was the first place I set up a profile. We were both honest on our profiles, with current pics, and a little humor. My oldest son says it’s unfair that I found love twice in my life. It might not be fair but it’s true love.
Two months into this new relationship my lump was diagnosed with breast cancer. This man who barely knew me stood behind me as we looked at the MRI scans of my lump on three big computer screens. He stood strong and caught me as the words “It’s cancer.” knocked me back. He had been there for the mammogram, the biopsy, and now…
This is when my life flipped upside down. Five months of chemo, bilateral radical mastectomy with reconstruction, two months of radiation, and a final reconstruction surgery, my love was still behind me. Without my mom, I couldn’t have done this with out him and the large circle of support that included my boys who sat with me through nasty chemo treatments; Dad who also sat with me at chemo and who was so generous to help with astronomical co-pays; my brother who had #AngieTough tee shirts made, collected photos of everyone wearing them, and comlpiled them into a video; and extended family who so generously helped out when I was on disability from work; and my entire work family who kept my classroom running smoothly and brought me dinner every Friday.
Cancer treatment really sucks. Each time I received chemo I felt pretty shitty but the next day or two were horrible. Nausea (even though the chemo contained some anti nausea drug), complete body pain, uncontrollable shaking, hair loss, terrible constipation, and finally and most importantly, neuropathy. My feet and hands were (and still are) numb. Wigs, extra nausea meds, out of work, no fun. Scary stuff.
Next the mastectomy. On my ex -husband’s birthday. I opted for bilateral mastectomy even though my right breast only had small calcifications. I had immediate reconstruction. They removed my breasts. They cut through nerve, muscle, and into the armpits. Cancer had spread to Just one lymph node. They inserted four drains that stuck out of my body and needed to be emptied daily for two weeks. Pain meds around the clock for about two weeks.
Next came 30 rounds of radiation. Five days a week for seven weeks. I tried to keep working, with Roswell Cancer Institute being around the corner. The burns were so bad that one of my incisions opened. Back out of work for weeks waiting for irradiated skin to heal. The burns and incision healed eventually. Inside the healing takes even longer.
Many details to this story that had to be left out just to keep the story moving. All the nasty details of my marriage at the age of 16 and how it lasted 30 years. All the details of the divorce that was uncontested and paid for solely by me during cancer treatment. Best of all – all the details of my love who I often feel like I’ve known all along.
Cancer treatment is tough, grueling, sickenin, expensive, and frighting. Through it all I kept in mind the fact that little children have to endure this type of treatment. I leaned on family when I needed them. Cancer leaves you with scars, bills, and gratitude!