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Survivor Stories 2013:
Stacey Richez

How did you first find out you had cancer?

I received results from a routine mammogram.  I had to return after the initial mammogram for diagnostic mammograms and then a biopsy.  But because I had been through that before, and it had previously turned out not to be cancer, I tried to convince myself that this time would have the same outcome (not cancer).  When I went in for the biopsy results in Feb 2013, that’s when they told me it was cancer.

How did you react when you heard the news?

I cried when the doctor entered the room with the nurse.  Because I had received benign news from a biopsy in the past (in which only the nurse was there), I knew that when the doctor entered the room with the nurse, it was different than last time and this meant it was bad.  The doctor asked if I needed my son (age 7) to leave the room.  That’s when I started crying harder, because I knew what that meant.  I did try to stay focused on all the details of the information that they gave me.  And I remember thinking what a great job the nurse was doing at sharing with me the information in a respectful, kind, informative way.  I remember thinking she must have a lot of experience sharing this awful news with women.  I found myself drifting off a few times, but trying to refocus quickly on the important things she was saying.

What course of treatment were you prescribed?

Lumpectomy with radiation was what the doctor’s recommended.  I initially thought I wanted a bilateral mastectomy, but based on the information given by the doctor’s, I decided that lumpectomy with radiation was best for me.  Upon finding the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, chemotherapy was added to my treatment plan.  Four rounds of Adriamycin/Cytoxan and four rounds of Taxotere.  Due to my young age, the chemotherapy was given more frequently, so I received treatments once every two weeks.  After chemotherapy, I will have 5 weeks of radiation, 5 times per week.  Then I will take an anti-hormone pill every day for 5 years.  And I will have a hysterectomy.

What most surprised you about your treatment?

The nausea.  Now a days you hear so much about the anti nausea pills and medications.  I was extremely nauseous and extremely tired.  I didn’t know before all this started how long the treatment plan is for breast cancer.

What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?

As scared as you are, it will be okay.  Treatment is doable, survivable.  It’s not pleasant.  But I (and you) can survive and conquer this illness.  My nurse said to me, “it’s a blip in time”. In the long journey of life, this is a short, small blip.

How long have you been cancer free?

I am celebrating 6 months of survivorship.  I would say they took the cancer out April 16, 2013, but I am still in treatment.

What lessons did you learn from the experience?

To be grateful, and humble.  To enjoy life each day, because our days are not guaranteed to us.  I wouldn’t say I wanted cancer or am glad that I had it, but it has taught me things about my life, myself and my family that I am grateful for.  I once listened to a guided imagery CD that said it perfectly “I tell the cancer these things: thank you for teaching me to stop and listen, thank you for reminding me of what is truly important- you can go now.”

If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?

We do the best we can in any given moment with what we are given.  We should not expect more of ourselves than that.

I now understand, we get it when we need it.  I wasn’t ready before now to belong to a support group.  But since joining the Young Survivors Group, it has been powerful and encouraging, uplifting and validating.  But the experience would not have been the same had I not been ready for it.  Give yourself the time and space you need and deserve.

In February of this year, at the age of 38, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Breast Cancer after discovery of the tumor through a routine mammogram. Due to my family history of breast cancer, I had been doing mammograms since the age of 36. At 36, I needed a biopsy, but it was not cancer, only fibroidal tissue. This time, it was cancer. Infiltrating ductal cell carcinoma. Determined to be no more than one year old, because of my previous years mammogram, it was said to be caught early and and early detection is key. I was tested for the gene mutation, which I do not carry. I had a right side breast lumpectomy as well as breast reduction on both the right and left breasts. Because I did have one lymph node test positive for cancer, it was decided I would need chemotherapy. My treatment plan is lumpectomy, 4 months chemotherapy, 5 weeks radiation and then a hysterectomy because my tumor is er, pr positive and grows from hormones. Overall, my treatment plan will take about 9 months to 1 year to complete. Midway through my cancer treatment, I lost my job of 13 years and my healthcare insurance, due to my inability to work while in treatment. It has been a rough road to recovery, but one I am fighting for every day.