Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I felt a lump in my breast while doing a self breast exam. It didn’t hurt, it just felt like a small grape was under the skin. After an ultrasound and a mammogram did not confirm it, I eventually had a biopsy that detected the cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, I was in great health and had no family history of cancer.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was very young at the time, in my late 20s and it was an incredible and terrible shock that I could get breast cancer at such an early age.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a modified radical mastectomy, and they also removed my lymph nodes as part of that. I also had an autogolous bone marrow transplant.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
That I had a chance (and a better than 50% chance!) of getting a lifelong condition called lymphedema as a result of my breast cancer surgery – and sure enough, it happened to me. To control swelling and pain in my arm, I was told I had to wear a compression sleeve every day for the rest of my life – but I hated wearing the heavy, hot, bandage-like garment!
While attending a conference for young breast cancer survivors, I was introduced to LympheDIVAs (fun, fashionable medically-correct compression sleeves). Here I was, this young survivor, wanting to have a good time and I was wearing this ugly brown sleeve that looked even uglier against my brown skin. When I found out about LympheDIVAs, I felt so empowered to have another option. As a survivor you do not want to be seen as the “eternal” patient. You are happy to be alive and you want to get on with your life. LympheDIVAs garments look good and make me feel good.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Today there are so many more treatment options available. Learn about all your options and talk to other women who have confronted breast cancer.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
It has been 17 years since my cancer diagnosis and 15 years since I completed treatment.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned so many lessons, but one of the most important is to engage fully in life. When I found out I had cancer, I was newly engaged. Now, 17 years later, my husband and I have adopted four children – ages 8,6,4 and 2. So now I have taken on a new role and a new challenge as a mom and really have gotten a crash course in motherhood. It is a fun (but exhausting!) chapter in my life.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Take your treatment seriously. Do what you need to do to get well, both physically and emotionally. Finding ways to cope with the after effects of treatment, like discovering LympheDIVAs to beautifully control my lymphedema, was just as important to me as beating cancer.
Olade (O-la-day) Olayinka developed breast cancer in her late twenties – a shocking diagnosis for a recently engaged young woman about to embark on a new chapter in her life. She endured two long years of treatment, including an autologous bone marrow transplant and a modified radical mastectomy in which all the lymph nodes around her underarm were removed.
Although treatment saved Olade’s life, it also led to nerve damage which caused her to feel tingling, numbness and swelling in her arm. After six months of these symptoms, a specialist diagnosed her with lymphedema, a lifelong condition that requires physical therapy and daily use of compression garments to control pain and swelling.
While attending a conference for young breast cancer survivors, Olade was introduced to LympheDIVAs: “Here I was with other young survivors, wanting to have a good time, and I am wearing this ugly brown sleeve which looks even uglier against my brown skin,” she says. “When I found out about LympheDIVAs, I felt empowered to have another option.”
A resident of Philadelphia, with a full-time job, Olade has taken on a new role in her 40s: Mom. She and her husband adopted four children, now ages 8, 6, 4 and 2. She’s had a crash course in motherhood, but loves every minute of her hectic life, not allowing lymphedema to slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.