April 22, 2008, is a day I will always remember. Not only was it my birthday, but it was also the day I found out I had breast cancer. Cancer… the one word I never thought I would hear in connection with my name.
As I walked alone out of Dr. Walker’s office that day all I could think was ‘Am I going to die?’ and ‘How will I be able to pay for this?’ Celebrating my birthday at Red Lobster with all my family was the last thing on my mind that day. The nurse at the surgeon’s office stopped me as I was leaving to inform me that the Alliance for Children and Women, formerly the YWCA could help me. So many thoughts raced through my head as I was driving home and the next thing I knew I was parked in front of the Alliance for Children and Women Center. I knew nothing about the Women’s Health Awareness program they offered, but by the end of the week, with the help of a very nice lady, I was one of many admitted into this special program for breast cancer patients. The Alliance informed me that I qualified for assistance and from that point forward my medical needs would be covered until I was diagnosed as cancer free! That was the first of many blessings to come. With the weight of financial burden lifted off my shoulders I could focus on my health and recovery. I was ready to fight back!
My family tried to lift my spirits by telling me nothing was certain until the biopsy results came in, but in my heart I knew I had cancer. I vividly remember how devastated I was the day I received the phone call at work from my doctor confirming I had cancer. I called my oldest son, Cody, and he rallied my family together to support me during this time. I was overwhelmed with the love and support demonstrated to me by the Alliance. Not even a week after contacting the Alliance, I was surprised to find a basket on my front porch full of goodies, from books, nail polish, pink scarf, powder, and lotion to name a few. Although the uncertainties demanded my mind’s attention, I had a peace knowing I was going to make it through this difficult season of my life.
Less than two weeks after being diagnosed, I had my right breast and three lymph nodes removed. The cancer was all contained in the tumor and the lymph nodes were clear. This was the second blessing on this journey. As soon as I healed from surgery I had my first appointment with oncologist, Dr. Hirsch, in Abilene. I would need to take six chemotherapy treatments to make sure nothing was left behind. I left his office, once again by myself, feeling a little better about my diagnosis. I didn›t want my children to have to experience the hardship of my diagnosis; I was determined to be strong and fight it on my own. I thought to myself, ‘I can do this; one treatment every three weeks. No problem!’ The nurse told me my hair would fall out after a few treatments and I would have some nausea and fatigue. I had no idea what I was in store for. Before my first treatment a PET scan was ordered to confirm that there were no other cancerous areas. Thankfully they confirmed that there were not, however, they did discover an ovarian cyst the size of a basketball. The cyst would have to wait until after chemo to be removed.
On June 23, 2008, two months and one surgery after being diagnosed, I took my first chemotherapy treatment at 8:30 in the morning. By 5:30 that same day I was sicker than I had ever been and not feeling quite as tough as I thought I was. For the next few days I was so ill I had to go back for an IV to help with the nausea. They said my first treatment was too strong; it was more than I could have even imagined. All of my hair fell out after only one treatment; I never imagined losing all my hair in two weeks. That was just the beginning of a pretty rough few months. I never pictured myself bald, but my family and friends were all so great about it. My co-workers wore caps to work right along with me, and many of my clients and friends gave me hats, namely a pink Dallas Cowboys hat since I am a huge fan! My family and friends were also supportive and there for me after every treatment. They stayed with me when I felt so bad, brought me food, even if I didn’t feel like eating. They all rallied around us for moral support during the entire event. You find out in times like these just what you are made of. You recognize how important God is and what a powerful part prayer has in your life. Prayer works! You really do learn to take time to stop and smell the roses!
The next five treatments never got any better, but at least I knew there was an end in sight. The day before my last treatment in October of 2008 I had a gallbladder attack. It postponed my last treatment a few weeks, so on November 8, 2008, I went in for my final chemo treatment. Happy Day! I knew I would be sick for a few days, but I also knew I was done. No more chemo!!! After five months of recovery, on January 15, 2009, I had a six hour surgery to remove my gallbladder, my basketball size ovarian cyst, hernia repair and a total hysterectomy. Everything went as planned with the surgery. It’s been over a year now since my diagnosis. I have regular mammograms and checkups. I’m feeling great and getting good reports. Three blessings. The last step in this journey will be having reconstructive surgery. I could not imagine what I would have done without the Woman’s Alliance.
I am not sure why I had to take this journey and may never know but without God, my wonderful family, friends and the Alliance for Children and Women I could not have gotten through it! I now have a better appreciation of life, my children, grandchildren and all my family and friends. You certainly find out just how many friends you do have! A big thanks to one and all! I love you all!