Survivor Stories 2015:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I’ve always been a very healthy person, so when I started feeling a little off around Halloween in 2012, I didn’t think much about it. One night in early November, I was in my room changing into my pajamas when I felt something, a lump, on my chest. I am a pretty calm person, but to be honest, when felt the lump my nerves started to get the better of me. I let things be for about a week; however, when I started developing pain I knew something wasn’t right. I really think that the pain was God’s way to tell me to pay attention. Just for further reassurance, I asked my husband what he thought, and he said “no, that’s not normal.” I went to my family doctor and was referred to a local specialist in Bloomington, Indiana. On December 21, 2012, I had a mammogram and ultra sound performed and was told the lump looked suspicious for breast cancer. On December 28th, I returned to the hospital for a biopsy which confirmed the diagnosis of breast cancer.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
When I first received the news I was kind of in shock. I am a relatively healthy person in general, so of course this took me by surprise. From there I moved into feeling sad. It wasn’t a sadness in the sense of ‘woe is me,’ it more because I realized that I have to break the news to my husband and children. After sharing the news, from there, I was yearning for knowledge. I wanted to know my next steps; I wanted to know how to beat this thing.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I was told in Indiana that it was a stage IV metastatic breast cancer and there was nothing they could do. I was informed that they couldn’t treat the disease, only manage it and that at best, I would have to live with it. It was at that point when I decided to seek out a second opinion and called Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern). Much to my delight, they were able to see me right away, and that’s where I met intake physician, Dr. Michael DelaTorre. He was key in helping me understand my cancer and the road ahead. After meeting with Dr. DelaTorre, I met with my oncologist, Dr. Dennis Citrin. He started me right away on three different types of chemotherapy. My cancer had to be treated aggressively, which was great news to me since prior to coming to CTCA® I didn’t have any options. I worked with my CTCA at Midwestern naturopathic oncology provider, who suggested the appropriate supplements I could use to help manage any side effects. I also met with a member of the pain management team who helped me manage my pain concerns. The emphasis on caring for the whole person and not just treating the cancer is what I love most about the treatment I received, and continue to receive at CTCA at Midwestern.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
Don’t come into the experience with preconceived notions of how it’s going to be. Television and movies have a way of dramatizing for effect, when in reality everyone’s experience is unique and determined by their state of mind. I was surprised to find that, although there were some tough times, coming to CTCA at Midwestern for treatment ended up being some of the most inspiring times for me and my family. It was a time for me to get better and connect with my family and new friends.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Cancer is not a death sentence. Cancer treatment has come a long way, and there so many options available. I did not think of my cancer as a death sentence; I thought of it as a challenge and an opportunity to beat cancer. You may not feel like this right away, but you’re an inspiration and you give others hope. Above all fight! Never give up! You’re a lot stronger then you may think!
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I’ve been without any evidence of cancer for over two years now – halleluiah! Being told you are without cancer is always great to hear; however, I remain vigilant and return to CTCA at Midwestern for regular follow up appointments, so that in the event my cancer does return we can catch it early.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I’ve learned many things from this experience. I realize now how much I’m truly loved and blessed. I also realize that I am a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. Never give up hope, and always get a second opinion. Don’t rely on the internet as your only source of information. There is too much information to digest it all. Take what you can gather online and have an open dialog with your doctor. Don’t let information overload slow your path to treatment down. If you want information about your disease go to reliable sources such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), American Cancer Society and your doctor. Remember everyone is different and no two cancers or treatments are the same.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
To all you Good Enough Mothers, remember: you deserve the very best! Try not to be hard on yourself. Everyone travels this road at their own pace, besides you know what they say, “slow and steady wins the race”. Above all listen to your body. You know when something’s wrong. Be your own advocate, and always walk tall into any and all experiences knowing that you are more than good enough, you’re great! Keep up the good fight! We are all rooting for you!! You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
Forty five years young, Maria Feldkamp, from Gosport, Indiana, is happily married to her husband Clint. The couple has been blessed with six children between the ages 13-23, and most recently welcomed a new granddaughter into the family. Maria, who is an independent, strong and proud woman, is the center of her family. Even when she learned that she had breast cancer, the first things that came to mind were, “I don’t want to add this extra burden to my husband” and “how are the kids going to take the news?” The good news is that the family rallied and took on this challenge together. Maria, who is always eager to share her story, has started writing a couple of books about her experiences which she hopes will help inspire other women and families facing cancer.