Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I had my first mammogram in January 2013 (my 40th birthday was New Year’s Eve). No one told me to get a mammogram. I lost my best friend to breast cancer when she was 32, so I just knew that the minute I turned 40, I would make an appointment. The results came back that they found calcifications, but I was told not to worry because most of the time this came back benign. I had a needle biopsy which came back normal, but they found a papilloma in my right nipple. They wanted to do an exisional biopsy, but I was told not to worry because most of the time, papillomas come back benign. I remember going for the results of the second biopsy. I wasn’t even nervous. My husband and I were kidding around in the waiting room and we were talking about where we were going to go for lunch. The nurse called us back to the little room, gave me a paper robe, asked me to take my top off and wait for the doctor. I looked at my husband and said, “Why would they want me to take my top off if the results were benign?” It was at that moment that I was scared. The doctor came in and said, “I have some bad news” and that’s the last I heard. I put my head between my legs and tuned it out. The date was February 28, 2013, around 11 in the morning.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was numb. When you hear cancer, it’s surreal. I don’t think I cried until I called my mom a little bit afterwards and she said, “I wish it was me.” When I look back now, I think I was almost robotic in the beginning. I spoke as if it was happening to someone else. I was too calm. My reaction was almost a non-reaction at first. It takes some time for a diagnosis like cancer to settle in, at least for me it did. Once I accepted what was happening, I took control and started to plan my course of action. I don’t know if this is normal behavior or not, but it was mine. I think that I am still coming to terms with what happened.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I am very lucky. My cancer was caught super-early. It was less than 5 cm when they found it, but they found more than one spot in my right breast. I chose a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I did not get implants. I used the fat from my belly (really, the only perk in all of this!) to form my new foobs (fake boobs). My lymph nodes came back clean, so I did not need radiation or chemo. Again, I got lucky. I just had my 3-month appointment with my oncologist and all of my blood work came back great! My surgery was April 4, 2013. My oncologist only needs to see me every six months now.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
I think the thing that surprised me was how easy it was for me to choose a mastectomy. I had no qualms telling the doctors to “take them off.” I am five months into my surgical recovery and I’m still healing. In my silly mind, I thought I would be “back to normal.” The truth is, you are never “back to normal” after cancer. It’s a new normal.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Hmm…this is a good question. Give yourself some time to let things sink in. If you have the option, don’t make any decisions at all for a period of time. Do your homework, get a second opinion, and then find a cancer hospital. I think one of the best decisions I made was going to a cancer hospital. They know what they are doing and they are more advanced when it comes to treatment options. Remember that you are your own best advocate! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Doctors do not always know what is best for you. YOU know what is best for you. Make decisions that you feel comfortable with. Have a sense of humor. It’s okay to cry, but you need to find some laughter in all of this. It will get you through some hellish times. Feel whatever it is you feel–it’s okay. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself (for a minute), it’s okay to be pissed, it’s okay to laugh!
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I have been cancer free for six months.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned to be grateful. I know sometimes that is hard to swallow when you are in the middle of your storm, but life is not always fair and you can’t sit around thinking “why me?” Why not you? As corny as it sounds, life is beautiful and there are no promises that things will be perfect, because they aren’t. It’s messy and unfair, but it’s yours and how you handle yourself and how you react to situations in your life are very telling. Be grateful, love hard and let yourself be loved.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
A cancer diagnosis can make you feel so damn lonely, but please remember that you are not alone. There is an army rooting for you that you don’t even know about. I am rooting for you! We are all in this together!
My name is Holly Fry and I was born December 31, 1972. I grew up in a small town in Northeastern PA, spent most of my Twenties in Philadelphia but moved back to my hometown when I got together with my now husband (who is also from my hometown). I graduated from Kings College and work as an Associate Director of Admissions for a private university. I have a teaching certificate in Secondary Education and will be starting graduate school in January.
I have been married now for 10 years to my best friend. I have no children but I have two nieces who mean the world to me and a dog named Blu who is 120 pounds of pure love and who I cannot imagine being with me forever (although I’m told that’s not possible). I also come from a large dysfunctional family who loves each other terribly but also drives each other absolutely bonkers! I wouldn’t have it any other way.