Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
After some nipple discharge led me to a mammogram and ultrasound at the age of 34, a biopsy followed. On September 26, 2012 I sat in the breast surgeon’s office and was told that I did indeed have breast cancer and that there was no way my breast could be saved.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was absolutely shocked and terrified. I had no family history and am otherwise perfectly healthy. As the mother of two toddlers at the time, my thoughts were of fear and sadness for them.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
My mastectomy came only 6 days after the news. 8 rounds of chemotherapy followed, and then 36 radiation treatments. I’ve now been on the drug Tamoxifen for nearly 18 months and will continue to take it for a total of ten years in hopes of preventing a recurrence. I eventually opted for a prophylactic mastectomy on my unaffected breast and reconstructive surgery.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
I was most surprised by how well I handled things physically. Although I was tired and sluggish, I had expected that. I didn’t think I was as strong as I am. I underestimated the will to live and to be there for my boys as they grow up. I have healed quickly and well, but the emotional toll has been exhausting. I don’t think I realized just how much my relationships and self-image would be impacted.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Surround yourself with people who adore you and truly want to help. Love yourself. Let your family and friends do things to spoil you. Be gentle with yourself and your caregivers. Do your best to stay positive, but don’t ever feel like you aren’t entitled to tears or sadness when you need to express it.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I have been cancer free for exactly two years.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I have learned countless lessons from my cancer experience. I learned that I am a much tougher person than I ever gave myself credit for. I now live more authentically, caring less about the opinions and/or approval of others. I have a greater appreciation for the fragility and unpredictability of life. I no longer sweat the small stuff. I now realize that there is so much in life that we cannot anticipate or plan for and that true growth comes from how we respond to those ugly things that “happen” to us. I can choose to take away nothing but misery from the experience, or I can surrender to the beauty that blooms in the chaos. I can try to focus on the positive, the kindness shown to me, the love I’ve felt from others.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
I hope my story reminds all women that breast cancer does not discriminate. Young, healthy moms can and do get breast cancer. Even men get breast cancer. I cannot stress the importance of paying attention to your body enough. Know all of the signs of breast cancer. There are other symptoms besides lumps, such as the nipple discharge that caught my attention in the first place. Lastly, do not wait to get something checked out if you do have a concern. You must be your own health advocate.
My name is Sara Romero and I’m a married mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5. I was diagnosed with stage IIIA breast cancer two years ago at the age of 34. As a young, active, healthy woman with no family history, I did not think I had any reason to be on the lookout for cancer. I was absolutely stunned by the diagnosis. After mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, and reconstructive surgery, I am proudly cancer free today and working at moving forward with life.