Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I discovered a lump during a breast self-exam and immediately got it checked out. The doctor thought it was just a cyst, but suggested I follow up with a biopsy. It actually was close to three weeks before I had my diagnosis confirmed. No one seemed in a hurry to get me in. If you suspect something is up, be adamant about being seen as soon as possible.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
Let’s face it: no one is ever prepared to hear they have cancer. I was stunned given the fact that my life and career are devoted to preventive medicine. I was only 45, with an 8-year-old son. I felt like my body had betrayed me. I was scared but knew that I would do everything in my control to tackle my diagnosis. That being said, I will admit it is very easy to become overwhelmed with the sea of information that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
Since my tumor was small, but an aggressive type–triple negative–I had a lumpectomy, followed by four months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
When you learn you have cancer, you are asked to make life-saving decisions while learning new medical terminology in an often fragile, emotional state. I searched for a resource to help guide me through the decision-making process and help keep me organized along the way. Kind of like a what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting-type book–only for breast cancer. I never did find one. So I vowed after I got through treatments I would create a resource for the next patient. With the help of my treatment team, I wrote Diagnosis: Breast Cancer-The Best Action Plan for Navigating Your Journey to empower and educate new patients.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Take a deep breath, focus on only your type of cancer, and ask as many questions as you need to and keep moving! I was fortunate enough to have an oncologist who understood the importance of physical activity in treating cancer. Research shows over and over that exercise reduces your side effects, shortens your recovery times, and lowers your chances of recurrence. I created my website, workingoutcancer.com to provide all the necessary information for patients on cancer and exercise.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
Five years this month!
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
The more informed and involved you become in your treatments, the better your outcomes. Fear comes from not knowing and so does stress. There are so many amazing resources out there for patients and though you may at times feel lonely, you are never in it alone!
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
I love the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Be true to yourself; don’t settle. Change can be scary, but invigorating and liberating. Live the life you envision. Don’t sweat the small stuff and cherish each day as the gift it truly is.
Okay, that was about five messages, but I think you get the overall theme!
Being told I had cancer was the beginning of a new journey for me. Rather than feel like a victim, I realized that I could help people on many fronts. I could use my expertise and experience in fitness management to help people make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their chances of getting cancer. And, I could take my personal experience with having cancer to develop a guidebook to help others when they are diagnosed. While there were many resources available to help me through the treatment and recovery process, there was not one tool that I could easily reference or access. This is why I created Diagnosis: Breast Cancer – The Best Action Plan for Navigating Your Journey. No matter where you are in your journey, be it committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle or in the throes of treatment, please join me in Working Out Cancer.