How did you first find out you had cancer?
In February of 2007, a few weeks after I’d weaned my third baby, I was at Brogan & Partners–the advertising agency where I have worked for the past 18 years. One of my coworkers played me our latest television spots for our client St. John Health including a spot on breast cancer. The spot showed the story of a young woman in the shower who found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was only 36 at the time, and hadn’t spent much time worrying about breast cancer but the spot motivated me to start checking my breasts. Within a short time, I found a lump. My doctors were not concerned and the lump did not show up in a mammogram but after several months, we decided it was best to have it removed.
How did you react when you heard the news?
It was a Thursday night in early August when I officially received my breast cancer diagnosis. I had convinced myself that the lump was absolutely nothing so I was not prepared when my doctor called to tell me they found cancer. Hearing the diagnosis was terrifying. Once I had the battery of tests to determine that the breast cancer had not spread, I was prepared to do everything I could to get rid of cancer forever.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a bilateral mastectomy, 14 lymph nodes removed and 6 treatments of Adriamycin, Cytoxin and Taxotere. Because I have a BRCA mutation, I also had a full hysterectomy with my ovaries removed.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
As a working mother with 3 kids, I had a hard time relaxing and letting go. The chemo zapped me of all my energy, and it was very hard at first to just shut down and let my body relax. Once I realized that I needed a solid week after each treatment to recover, I was able to plan more accordingly and take the time I needed to recover while other people helped me with my kids and my house.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Let people help you. Everyone is looking for a way to make this easier for you and preparing a meal or taking your kids feels as good to them as it does to you. Take the time your body needs to recover. Women have a hard time shutting down and relaxing but your body needs you to do that. Stay positive. A positive attitude can make all the difference. I found strength in blogging about my journey and it’s a great way to keep your family and friends informed.
How long have you been cancer free?
5 years. I was diagnosed August 2, 2007 and had my mastectomy on September 7, 2007.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I’ve learned a tremendous amount from this experience. But most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff. I am a calmer and happier person than I was 5 years ago.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Life is precious and you should live and enjoy each moment. Find the good things in life that make you smile and make you happy. Share that smile with your friends, your neighbors and even people you pass on the street.
As a breast cancer survivor, Ellyn has used social media to do research–and stay in touch with friends and family. Currently, she posts to educate, advocate and fund raise. Today, as Managing Partner, Ellyn brings her positive energy, talents and expertise together to focus on strategy, business development, morale, technology, and what’s next for Brogan & Partners and our clients.
In her free time (Ha ha! Ellyn? Free time?) Ellyn is a Susan G. Komen 3-Day Team Captain, Director of Ta Ta Breast Cancer, Outreach Coordinator for FORCE—Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, a Board member for the Michigan Amber Alert Foundation and a public speaker on breast cancer, social media and marketing to women. She lives in Huntington Woods with her husband, Jon and their three children.
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