Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I can still vividly remember the dark October morning that changed my world. I was in the shower and felt a lump in my right breast. I immediately felt that tight ball of fear in my stomach even though my mind tried to rationalize the situation, “it’s probably nothing. You’re only 32.” But I followed that gut instinct and went in to see my OBGYN. She felt the lump, but wasn’t overly concerned. However, to give me peace of mind she sent me in for a breast ultrasound. The ultrasound led to an immediate mammogram, which led to an immediate breast biopsy. I felt like I was swimming in a fog walking from room to room. When I finally regained my voice, I asked the radiologist, “What are we thinking here?” She looked me directly in the eye and responded, “We strongly suspect this is Cancer.” I received my official diagnosis two days later, but my life A.C., or “After Cancer” started the moment that radiologist gave me the news.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
My heart sank when I heard the “c” word. Cancer. I felt so much fear and uncertainty. My daughters were 3 and 5 years old at the time of my diagnosis, and all I kept thinking was, “They’re not going to remember me.” I went to a very dark place and was filled with a deep sadness.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I also went through four rounds of chemotherapy.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
I was most surprised by the amount of time it took me to recover from my bilateral mastectomy. My surgeon had given me all the guidelines for recovery time, but I assumed because I was so young, I’d bounce right back. That was not the case.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Find a medical team that listens to you and thinks of you as part of the team. Reach out to family and friends for support. I had never really needed to ask for help before, but without the support of my community, my experience would have been exponentially more difficult. Friends brought food by and sent texts and messages just to say they were thinking about me. My husband’s co-workers covered his shifts so that he could be at every doctor’s appointment and chemotherapy treatment. My mom, dad and sisters took on many of the day-to-day responsibilities in my household to keep things as normal as possible for my daughters. The people in my life literally picked me up and carried me through those darkest of days.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I’ve had “no evidence of disease” (NED) for three years this October with a big celebration planned for my “cancerversary!” This was never a milestone I expected to have, but since it’s here to stay (and hopefully I am, too!), I figure I might as well celebrate! I’d like to continue to hang out with my best friend NED for as long as possible!
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned that life can change in an instant, that life is too short to not make every day count, that you never know the private battles someone might be fighting even if they look “normal” on the outside.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Enjoy each day. Hug your kids. Listen to them and hear them. Soak in those quiet moments with your family. Enjoy the beauty of life.
Molly Lindquist, a mom and breast cancer survivor, founded Consano, a 501(c)(3) crowdfunding platform for medical research, after her cancer diagnosis in 2011 at the age of 32. Molly graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics and went on to work as an investment banking analyst in the consumer group at Robertson Stephens. After her stint in banking, Molly transitioned into the corporate world, travelling the globe sourcing products for World Market and then doing company planning for the Banana Republic brand of Gap Inc. After the birth of her first child in 2006, Molly took on the most difficult job she’s ever had as a stay-at-home mom, and learned that there was no Excel model that could map out the whims of a small child. The complexity and joy of work only grew in 2008 when her second daughter joined the family. Molly blogs about her cancer experience for the Huffington Post and was named a 2014 Orchid Award Winner by the Portland Business Journal. She is also the proud recipient of a “Best Mom in the World” mug.