Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
What’s unique about me is that my cancer didn’t show up with a mammogram. I felt a lump, so I went to get a mammogram. My doctors thought it was just fibrous tissue, so I continued on my way, thinking little of it. After a few months, I noticed that the lump was getting bigger. I went back to my doctors and they did an ultrasound and discovered a tumor. The doctors biopsied the tumor and found out it was malignant. At this point, I had MRIs for both breasts and I knew I had to have the tumor removed.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I found out that I had breast cancer over the phone, because I ran a home daycare center and didn’t want to miss any work to go in to the doctor’s office. My surgeon called and told me I had cancer. When I was diagnosed I was shocked. I’ve always been a healthy person, so I didn’t expect it. I felt like I’d been sideswiped.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
The only choice I thought I’d have was a single or double mastectomy, so I was pleased when my doctor said I had other options. My doctor told me I’d be able to have a lumpectomy followed by targeted radiation, then chemo. After considering all the options I selected brachytherapy, a five-day partial breast radiation treatment, instead of a longer six-week course of radiation. For me it was critical to move forward quickly with my treatment and know I had one part of my treatment out of the way. With brachytherapy, the radiation only lasted five days and the area affected was much smaller. I also went through 6 months of chemotherapy. I would never want to go through breast cancer again but if I did, I would choose the same treatment method.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
The thing that surprised me most was the length of treatment time, originally I was told I would have a year of treatment. The thing I was most scared of was the chemotherapy. It was difficult, but looking back it was not as bad as I thought it would be.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
It’s important to get a second opinion. When my doctor called to give me the news, I asked, “Will it kill me?” His response of “Well, it’s cancer” sent a chill down my spine. My first step was to get a new doctor and a second opinion. Having a doctor you are confident with means a lot for your piece of mind.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I’m seven years cancer free as of this October.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned that I am a lot stronger and braver than I thought I was. I also learned to try to take one day at a time and to appreciate my world more.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
If you have a lump, be persistent with your care because not all cancers show up in a mammogram. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, try not to be too frightened. If caught early, the survival rate is very high. If you have good health, appreciate it. Take good care of yourself and your family. Cherish your life and remember to have fun.
Kerry Kenna is a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate living in San Diego, California. She has collaborated with the BC5 Project, a group dedicated to broadening awareness of breast cancer treatment options for women. To learn more about The BC5 Project please visit http://www.bc5project.com.