Survivor Stories 2015:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was four months pregnant when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. I knew that you needed to continue regular breast self-exams during pregnancy and I found a large lump in my left breast. I was probably more alert because my boss at work had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had treatment just a few months before.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
When the doctor told me that my biopsy results were back and I had triple negative breast cancer I was surprised and devastated. No one in my family ever had breast cancer and I never imagined it would happen to me despite the statistics. I was worried about what it would mean for my pregnancy. I had a hard time getting pregnant and just as I successfully made it out of the first trimester I got this news.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a unilateral mastectomy and four sessions of Adriamycin and Cytoxan while I was pregnant and 12 sessions of Taxol after my son’s birth. There’s no known follow-up treatment for triple negative breast cancer so I just have to try to stay as healthy as possible. Since I was pregnant reconstruction was not an option for me in the beginning. By the time it was an option I was comfortable in my new body and decided not to have it. I was tired of surgeries (I also had a c-section) and medical treatments and didn’t want to spend weeks unable to pick up my son who was a toddler by that time.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
The most surprising thing to me about treatment was that I could have the regular course of treatment while pregnant and that my son turned out just fine. I counsel pregnant women with cancer and my quick take-away for them is that when my son was born despite the fact that I was bald, he came out with a full head of hair.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Take a deep breath. There are a lot more options than there used to be and treatment has come a long way. That also means you need to educate yourself and ask questions of your doctors and other treatment providers, so that you choose the right options for you, whether they are about treatment, fertility preservation, reconstruction, or preventative treatments.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
In a few weeks, I will have been 5 years cancer free. That’s an important milestone, but not one I take for granted.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
This experience has made me more grateful for all the little things. In the beginning I worried a lot that I might not live to see my son grow up or even long enough for him to remember me. That fear was heightened when one of the women I peer-counseled died of triple negative breast cancer before her daughter was one. Now, I try to savor each moment. I’m not going to lie – just like any mom there are days when I’m frazzled doing one-hundred things where fifty fit, or am annoyed because a boy and a dog follow me into the bathroom when I just need two minutes to myself. But now, more and more often, I stop myself to enjoy the moment and to be grateful to still be here.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
There can be a great life after breast cancer, and I think you can replace “breast cancer” with almost any challenging situation. We are capable of handling way more than we give ourselves credit.
Kitt Allan is an experienced executive and a happy mom who fought breast cancer during her pregnancy. Kitt’s treatment was limited to a unilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy to save her life and her son’s and was unable to have reconstruction for at least two years due to the pregnancy and changes in her body. When she was given the okay to have reconstruction, Kitt was comfortable with her new body but not with the available garments for women wearing a prosthetic. Determined to enjoy a fulfilling life, Kitt was inspired to create her own line of intimates for cancer survivors and all women looking for charm in any size and shape. For more information visit www.KittAllan.com.