Hi, my name is Michelle and my story is one of perseverance & positivity in spite of all the struggle & challenges. My husband & I are fighting cancer together, he with lymphoma & myself, breast cancer. All of this while being Mom & Dad to two very active children. Trying yes, but at the same time enlightening & strengthening.
In May of 2015, my husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). After a plethora of tests, scans & appointments he began treatment in July & was considered in remission as of August 2015. He tolerated treatment well & we were able to get through without much impact on the kids at all, in fact we managed never to mention the dreaded “C” word.
Feeling like cancer was behind us, October was good! We celebrated our son’s 2nd birthday & our daughter’s 5th. Life seemed to be returning to normal. But in November, right around Thanksgiving I noticed a pretty prominent lump in my left breast. Since there was no history of breast cancer in my family & my husband had just battled cancer I was confident that it wasn’t anything to worry about & opted to wait until after the holidays to address it. I wanted my family to enjoy the holiday season stress free.
In January, I made an appointment with my doctor, who referred me to a breast specialist & surgeon. We started with a mammogram & ultrasound. I was slightly concerned not just one, but three people came to discuss the ultrasound findings. In a nutshell they recommended a biopsy which my breast surgeon handled shortly thereafter. On Monday February 22nd I received the dreaded call from my breast surgeon at work, she asked if I could speak privately. From that alone I already knew the results & I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had cancer.
Following the diagnosis, I had the standard plethora of tests & scans in which it was determined the mass in my left breast had most likely been growing for approximately two years already & they discovered an additional mass in the right breast as well. It was clear that my treatment wasn’t going to be as simple as my husband’s & our children would clearly have questions.
Surgery took place mid-March & was long, lasting nearly 13 hours. I had bilateral mastectomy with tram-flap procedure for reconstruction (basically this means I received a tummy tuck, a nice bonus right?!) the removed tissue was used to form new breasts. During surgery I also had 15 lymph nodes removed, three of which were cancerous & one indicated the cancer had begun to leave the node. The tumour was dumbbell shaped & was nearly 5cm in length! I spent 4 nights in Intensive Care following surgery & recovery was long, even after I was able to return home.
I completed eight rounds of chemo, starting in April & had my final treatment in July. Chemo was rough on me & hard on my family. There were days I was barely able to get out of bed, a difficult place to be for a normally pretty ambitious mother of two who rarely sits still. Following chemo, I completed 33 radiation treatments, which were more painful & exhausting than I realized they would be. The beginning wasn’t so bad but the side effects are cumulative meaning they build over time. Eventually, the burning became pretty painful & I experienced a good deal of exhaustion. In the end when counting down, just one more treatment felt like one too many & I was so happy to ring that bell on my final day!
Meanwhile, as I was going through the treatments, my husband began to notice some lumps returning on his skin that appeared to be tumors similar to those he had previously. Some visits with his doctors & tests confirmed his lymphoma has either returned or was never fully gone. Either way, he’s in process of completing a treatment plan similar to that he did previously & will follow with maintenance treatments for the next few years in attempt to keep the cancer in check & we’ll go from there.
As for me, I should be cancer free as of now. Just need one more scan to confirm some abnormalities are just standard trauma as anticipated & I then I can rest easy. My doctors tell me that following surgery the odds of my cancer returning were 80%, following chemo those odds went down to 40% & after radiation down to 7%, which is a number I can live with!
Through all of this, I’ve really learned to take everything one day at a time. Worrying about things we have no control over is a waste of precious time and energy, just be grateful for what we’ve been given & make the best of it. It’s so important to be kind to everyone. You never know what someone may be going through & everyone goes through something at some point in their lives. The mind is a powerful thing & a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world.
Many would say that my husband & I are unlucky to both have gotten cancer, but we would say that we’re lucky to be able to go through it together. Who better to stand by your side than your best friend who can relate to what you’re going through in a way that others cannot begin to imagine.
To others that maybe suffering similarly, I think most just wants to know they’re not alone in this battle. We find comfort in hearing the experiences of others & how they have found the strength to persevere. We find hope in their personal experiences, and that’s why I think sharing my personal experience is important.
Thanks for reading my story,
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