Survivor Stories 2015:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I have been diagnosed more than once. The first time I was diagnosed with stage III invasive ductal carcinoma. I found a small lump about the size of an eraser head close to my nipple. I thought it was a clogged milk duct (even though my daughter was three years old). It turned out that it was one of four tumors found in my left breast. The second time, I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. For this, I had some sharp pains in my back that ran down my leg. After a CT scan, my doctors found metastatic disease in my liver and spine.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
Luckily, my daughter was asleep the first time because I just crumbled and cried. That’s the best way to explain it. I was scared; I didn’t know what to expect. The second time, I kept saying “I knew it! I knew it was back.” After crying for a while, I decided that I wasn’t done and I just needed a plan…so I was okay after that. I did get engaged as soon as we got home that night too. So my worst night ever turned into my best.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
Initially, I went through 4 AC treatments, 4 Taxol treatments, 28 radiation treatments and a radical bilateral mastectomy. I started out my stage IV treatment with Ixempra® and Xeloda®. We ended up stopping the Xeloda, but I am continuing Ixempra along with vitamins and other supplements to manage side effects at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
That I could survive it – Going through it once, I would make myself sick with anxiety and once it was over, I didn’t think I could ever do it again. Realizing that was my only option once diagnosed with stage IV cancer, not only did I have to do it again, but probably for the rest of my life, I knew I had to adapt, make it work and suck it up.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
If you’re stage III or lower, it’s a temporary setback, so you can live a fulfilled life. If you’re stage IV like me, keep going. It’s not a death sentence, it’s a life sentence. Either way, it’s just a new normal you have to get used to. BUT you can do it, especially if I can do it twice, three times, etc.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
At this point, I am not cancer free, but I am still striving for that every day.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Not to live in fear. No matter what happens, you can adapt and make it work. My biggest fear was getting diagnosed with cancer, having a huge accident or something horrible like that. Once I faced stage IV cancer, it released a lot of fears I had preventing me from living my life.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
We all have our bad days. Heck, most of us deserve to have those days with what we are facing/dealing with. Don’t ever stay in that bad day though. Have your bad day and make the next one a good one. You win the battle by staying in a positive place.
Lisa Cannon, a 31-year-old from Central Illinois, was diagnosed with stage III Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in November 2011 when she was only 27-years-old. After undergoing a bilateral radical mastectomy and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the mother of two and founder of her own photography and stationary design business (Lisa Lu Designs) learned in July of 2014 that she had stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver and spine. Even though her cancer journey has not been an easy one, Lisa has remained positive through it all. To combat nervous jitters, Lisa dances before each chemotherapy treatment and shares her experiences through social media.