Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I found out from my yearly mammogram, followed by a diagnostic mammogram and biopsy.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I cried for many hours. I heard sounds come from my body that I didn’t know were possible. I picked up my pathology report and went to my gynecologist’s office. We stood in his office, where he hugged me and prayed for me.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a double mastectomy followed by 16 rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation. I am preparing to have my ovaries removed since my cancer was 100% estrogen-fed.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
I had no expectations about how I would feel regarding treatments. I was scared to death the day of my first chemo. I cried in the waiting room, not knowing if my body would betray me. Thankfully, my oncologist feels that there is no reason for a patient to be sick, that there is a pill to keep you from being sick. Radiation was pretty easy until the very end, when my skin started developing blisters. I am now one week post radiation with deep second-degree burns to my skin.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Cry, scream, let it out, and do not Google! If you must look anything up online, only go to trusted sites like The American Cancer Society and The National Breast Cancer Foundation. Do not let anyone tell you how you should deal with learning you have cancer, deal with it in the way that makes YOU feel best, this is about you. Don’t depend on your doctors to verify your insurance coverage–you do it! Educate yourself on not only your insurance, but on the medicines you will be given.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I will never be considered cancer-free since I had positive node involvement. However, I like to say that I have been cancer-free since December 20, 2012–the day of my double mastectomy.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I have learned so much about life, about the people around me, about my husband, my friends, who I can truly count on, who I can’t. I learned that I’m truly stronger than I ever thought I was, that I should not only stop and smell the roses, but also I should stop and smell the weeds along the way.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Regardless of what life throws at you, keep a positive attitude and smile!
My name is Michelle Lee, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma on November 20, 2012, at the age of 45. I had a double mastectomy on December 20, 2012, with three positive lymph nodes. My cancer was stage 2 and 100% estrogen-fed. Chemo put me into instant menopause and my hot flashes have been long and hard, very brutal. During this journey, my employer terminated my position, which has left me without a job and unable to look for one while I have finished treatments and prepared for my next surgery. I have kept a positive attitude, joked about my hair, and laughed at things I never laughed at before. Chemo changed my vision, and as a photographer, that isn’t a good thing. As soon as my vision is straight again, I plan to dust off my camera, charge the batteries, and start shooting again.
Here is a YouTube video of my journey.