Survivor Stories 2015:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was told at my annual mammogram in January 2014, that there was a suspicious area they wanted to watch and to come back in 6 months. July rolled around pretty fast and I called to schedule another mammogram. The radiologist saw some change in the area and suggested that I have a biopsy performed. I went for the biopsy with my mother and my best friend by my side. In a few days, I received a call from the surgeon and went to his office for the results. That should have told be something when they “called me in.” But when the nurse asked, “Didn’t you bring anyone with you?” It pretty much sealed my fate at that moment.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I sat still, by myself, and heard the words….good news…think we got it all with biopsy….bad news…want to go back and take out a little more for a new baseline….
No real choices were presented other than this. I was a little numb and “out of body”, but I knew I had to get moving. I didn’t want this inside of me!
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I called my friend, who was also a nurse, and she met me back at my office with a chocolate crème filled doughnut and a hug. She asked me why I didn’t consider a mastectomy. I looked at my insurance and I was a candidate for not only a mastectomy, but a bi-lateral and reconstruction of both breasts. I called the surgeon back to confirm and he did. I asked him why he didn’t tell me that I had a choice, and he apologized and said that he assumed most women wanted to preserve their breast tissue. He, obviously, didn’t know me!
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
This was the biggest surprise for me not to be made aware of all of my choices and have to figure these things out on my own. I then took it upon myself to research to find one of the best plastic surgeons for breast reconstruction in the area and find out who to use for the mastectomy surgeon. A little harder to get in without referrals, but persistence paid off and I was in their offices before the end of the month.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
My advice to anyone who is diagnosed with breast or any other kind of cancer is to ask questions, read your insurance policy or policies, and talk to a friend or another doctor and get their advice as well. Educate yourself with others who have the knowledge.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
Technically, since the biopsy. Officially, Since September 12, 2014 when the bi-lateral mastectomy was performed and all of the removed tissue and the lymph nodes showed no other cancer cells.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned a lot from this experience. I was already very independent, but I learned to accept the help of others who wanted to be there for me. My friends and family were very supportive in ways I would have never imagined. They gave me lots of love and support and I learned to accept and just say thank you.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Take care of yourself and be as active and healthy as you can. Don’t wait for something to happen to you to get you active and paying attention to your good health. It took me only two weeks to start moving my arms again. I used my dance as my therapy for regaining movement, but slowly and with doctor’s warning. You see, I cried every day I went to the studio to rehearse(before my surgery) wondering if I would ever be able to dance the way I loved to dance, again. The guys would get me started on the floor and take my mind off of what was to happen. They were also there to gently lead me back on the floor when I regained my strength. Also, my other advice to other mothers who find their selves in a similar situation, find out all that you can about your choices, make the best decision for YOU, share that decision with those closest to you and allow them to love you and care for you; they are blessings sent from Heaven.
Karen Odom is a dancer at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Greensboro, NC. On Sunday, October 11th, she performed in “Some Like It Hot,” a dancing showcase presented to benefit the Alight Foundation. Their mission is to help local breast cancer patients and their families, in the greater Greensboro area, by providing financial, educational and emotional assistance as they navigate through their diagnosis, treatment options and plan of care.
To learn more, visit www.alightfoundation.org.