It has been one year since my hysterectomy, and I am gearing up for yet another surgery. Because of my high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, my doctors advised me to have a double mastectomy as well. Originally I scheduled the mastectomy three months after my hysterectomy. However, with the blood loss, I had the cancel the mastectomy until I was well enough. One year later and I was cleared to proceed with the “prophylactic bilateral mastectomy”.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would be more confident than ever before.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would still fell sexy and still feel like a real woman.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would find a deeper meaning in life.
Nobody told me, that without breasts my husband would love me more because of the pain we endured together.
Nobody told me, that losing my breasts would result in having more compassion for others.
Nobody told me, that losing my breasts would bring me closer to the people I love.
Nobody told me, that losing my breasts would allow me to cry and to feel other people’s pain and empathize in a way I had never done before.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would be included in this thing we call “Sisterhood”. It’s an intimate bond between breast cancer survivors that enables us to talk to one another like we have been friends forever, as we understand the intensity of the fears and anxieties we share together.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would grow to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would have more patience for my children.
Nobody told me, that without breasts my kids would still think I was normal even with
all my scars.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would allow myself to slow down and enjoy life.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would come closer to the Lord and feel his love closer to me.
Nobody told me, that without breasts I would welcome my birthdays and not be troubled over the fact that I am getting older, but rejoice at the blessings given to me, as I have been graced by God to celebrate another year.
If I had to change anything, I wouldn’t. Losing my breasts represents all that I am now. It represents that I can have a part of my body removed and I can still love and people can still love me. It represents that it’s what’s in my soul that makes me happy and content. I am now someone that understands what it truly means to love. To love my family, my friends and myself with a love that is much richer and deeper than I had ever imagined!
Nobody told me that without breasts, I would understand that every day and every moment is
This time of year is always hard for me. Seven years ago, today, my mom lost her battle with breast cancer. I can remember every detail of that day as if it were yesterday. The fear on my father and siblings’ faces, were almost unbearable. I can describe it only as the worst heartbreak, ever. Life as I knew it, would never be the same.
Grief is a peculiar emotion. It affects everyone differently. For me, I can honestly say that I was the epitome of a lost soul for a very long time. My husband and I live next door to my parents (believe it or not, it was my husband’s idea). It took a long time for me to get used to no longer waking up and running next door in my pajamas to grab a cup of coffee with my mom. Having the comfort of being able to pick up the phone to call my mother when I had something to tell her… Would never happen again. I can remember calling her cell phone just to hear her voice message, until finally, that was turned off. On the outside, I really tried to remain strong. On the inside, I was crumbling.
The good thing about being an eternal optimist is that I knew this feeling would go away slowly. I just had to let time take its course. I forced myself to do things, spending a lot of time with my mom’s sisters. With both aunts having such close striking resemblances to my mother, they kept my mom close to me on so many levels. When I talk to my Aunt Maureen on the phone, she sounds like my mom. When my Aunt Jean gets excited about cooking something new, I swear she is a dead ringer for my mom. I don’t know whether or not my lovely aunts are aware of how much they helped me through some of my darkest days.
As time passed, I soon enjoyed the reminders of my mom. I finally accepted she was gone.
With acceptance of my mom’s passing, came acceptance of change. Family traditions were no longer. My siblings were growing up, and moving out. My dad was keeping busy with hobbies, and even thinking about dating again. When my mom was sick, she specifically told me that she didn’t want my dad alone, and that she was okay with him meeting someone else. At the time, I was certain that I would never be comfortable with my dad dating. However, a few years later when my dad was finally ready to date, I was truly happy for him. You see, when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. Being alone, was not what was best for my dad!
He went on a few dates, but nothing came about. Until one day, he introduced me to his new “friend”, Kathy. She is beautiful, kind, and she loves wine! But most important, I see that she makes my dad happy. Kathy is widowed as well, so they have a connection that only the other truly understands. She was just what my dad needed.
So rather than sulking today, I’ve decided to celebrate finally moving on.
I am certain that this is just what my mom would have wanted.
As if it were yesterday, I lay in the hospital bed waiting for my hysterectomy, feeling a wide range of different emotions. I was relieved that I was finally having my surgery. After all, I went through hell just to get to this point. On the other hand, I was still torn and feeling sad because after that day I would no longer be able to bear another child. I couldn’t help wondering if this would make me less of a woman. Clearly, I was very anxious.
A sweet woman with a volunteer badge approached me and asked if I would like a massage. (I highly suggest you ladies take advantage of this perk if it is offered at your hospital.) It was amazing. She covered my eyes with a satin mask, put headphones over my ears with beautiful music, and massaged my head and shoulders. I can assure you that this was the best part of my day! Shortly after my massage, I was wheeled in for surgery.
What happened next, I have no logical explanation.
Days leading up to my hysterectomy quickly approached.
Blood work – check.
Babysitting logistics – check.
Hospital bag packed – check.
Clean house (yes, I am one of those) – check, check.
Several family and friends called to wish me well, but it was during my aunt and uncle’s visit that things went sideways.
My doctor called asking me how I was doing and casually mentioned he had something he wanted to share. Not thinking anything of it, other than I was pleasantly surprised to receive a house call from my doctor, I responded, “Okay, what is it?”
“You’re pregnant”, He said.
Two small simple words. I can still vividly remember, how instantly I became lightheaded and on the verge of passing out. I could still hear my mom’s voice, in my head, so I desperately held it together not wanting to “freak out” my relatives, while I politely, asked my doctor if I could call him back.
The next hour seemed to crawl by. I tried desperately to keep my cool; all the while knowing that my aunt and uncle suspected something was going on.
When I called my doctor back an hour later… I was still numb with shock. My doctor shared he was equally surprised since he had informed me that my chance of becoming pregnant was extremely slim. My ultrasound showed that my ovaries and fallopian tubes were covered with “growths”. I had stopped taking my birth control pill for only a month, and to be perfectly honest, with a crazy schedule, the stress of the surgery, and a child that likes to sneak into our bed every night… There wasn’t a lot of action going on.
After whispering, “What does this mean?” to my doctor, he explained that he had cancelled my hysterectomy. But, more importantly he wanted to know if I was going to continue with the pregnancy. If I chose to continue the pregnancy, I would be monitored very closely. However, if the masses in my ovaries and fallopian tubes were malignant, the high levels of estrogen could cause the cancer to spread quickly.
So much to process. I needed to talk to my husband yet I was sick to my stomach knowing he really wanted another child. On the other hand, after seeing what this disease had done to my mother and knowing that it may be my fate too, I couldn’t continue the pregnancy. I knew my husband would take the news well but I must admit, I was very surprised that he never once questioned my decision. He was extremely supportive and said without hesitation that terminating the pregnancy was the only decision.
The following morning, I let my doctor know of our decision. But, things are never easy. Unfortunately, my doctor informed me that he could not terminate my pregnancy at my Catholic hospital, because one I am Catholic and two my life wasn’t at stake. My only option was to seek out a local clinic to perform the procedure. What??? I could not believe what I was hearing. This “policy” was completely absurd. Unfortunately, this was a battle I did not have the energy for and I knew the longer I waited, the harder this decision would be.
The next day, my husband accompanied me to a local clinic where they first made me sit down, while they counseled me to make sure I was making this decision with a clear mind. Next, I was moved into an examination room for an ultrasound. Remember I said earlier nothing is every easy? Well, it turns out that the tech was unable to locate a gestational sac so I under went blood work to check for HCG levels that would confirm if I was pregnant. Obviously I was. However, because the pregnancy was in the early stages, I was denied the termination and instead told to return in another week.
Are you KIDDING me???
The next week was complete hell and to say I was on an emotional roller coaster would have been a complete understatement. I couldn’t get away from everyone asking why my hysterectomy was cancelled. Few people knew about the pregnancy and I just couldn’t deal with the stress so I let my poor husband deal with all the questions. In amongst all the feelings, I remember feeling utterly embarrassed. I had always considered myself responsible. How could I have allowed this to happen?
A week later, my husband and I returned to the clinic, this time arriving on a Saturday. Outside the clinic, protesters were thrusting Pro Life pamphlets in our faces as we walked inside. I felt so ashamed and so annoyed all at the same time. How dare these people judge us? They have no idea what each woman’s story is, that bravely walks through those doors.
Once inside, I was escorted again into an examination room for another ultrasound. Again, the tech was unable to spot the embryo, so the doctor was called in. To my relief, even though he was unable to locate the embryo, he agreed to perform the procedure. Now, I could finally reschedule my hysterectomy.
This experience has taught me so much about myself and made me appreciate what others must face. I am completely aware of the negative stigma and knowing I may offend or alienate people around me when they find out I was faced with this Pro Life/Pro Choice decision. I contemplated whether or not to share this personal, yet controversial part of my story. Even though, I made the difficult decision to terminate a potentially dangerous pregnancy, I know not everyone will agree. There will be those that will judge me and simply won’t care about my reasons. However, I do choose to hold my head up high and stop second-guessing myself. I am here today and able to enjoy and share every minute of my life, with those around me that I love.
… For those of you that read this story, I THANK you from the bottom of my heart for your open mindedness and allowing me the opportunity to share. Stay Tuned for the next phase of my journey.
When my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I was eighteen and didn’t know the extent of her diagnosis. I remember coming home one night and she was drinking her glass of wine, watching Nightline (this was her nightly ritual after my father and siblings went to bed). That evening, she invited me to sit down next to her. We had the talk that no parent should ever have with their child.
My mom shared that she didn’t know if and how long she was going to live, but she was prepared to fight with everything she had. Hours passed with both of us sobbing. But, in perfect “Lynn Style”, she told me to stop whining and I had better not make a big deal out of this or I would scare the s%#t out of my father and four younger siblings. To this day, I still shed a tear but manage to smile out of pure respect for my mother, when I remember that night.
Now, back to my story. My husband and I had a huge decision to make. Of course I downplayed the mass on my right ovary. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t want to scare the s#%t out of my husband and son! In reality, I was scared out of my mind.
My doctor had informed me that he could not tell for sure if the mass was benign or malignant, until he performed a biopsy on it. He advised me that with my history, I should really consider a complete hysterectomy. However, he was willing to keep an eye on it for a bit longer while I contemplated.
Do I chance it? I knew the viciousness of cancer. As my mothers’ caretaker, I helplessly watched her suffer for years. On the other hand, a hysterectomy was permanent. Not only did my husband and I want another child, but I believed I would be less of a woman. Although my husband assured me that I would be no different to him, I still couldn’t make the decision.
Was I was looking for validation that I wasn’t overreacting? What would my mother have advised me to do?
Being in this situation made me appreciate my mothers’ courage even more. She fought this horrible disease for over 10 years. She never once questioned whether or not to have another surgery. She always agreed to try another treatment with the hope that one would work. She did what she had to do. And I have no doubt that she made those decisions with her family in mind.
I am, after all, my mothers’ daughter, and when it came down to it, I had to do what was best for my family. So, I had the surgery.
I am wondering if anyone else out there has been tested for the BRCA gene?
At the time, I really didn’t understand what the BRCA gene was, but my doctor made the suggestion, my insurance covered it, so I thought, “what the heck”? I gave a simple blood sample. About a month later, I went to my follow up appointment. I met with my doctor and a genetic counselor. Much to my surprise, I was informed that I had in fact tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. What did this mean?
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. A mutation of these genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. If a woman inherits a “deleterious” BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, such as myself, her risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased. Men who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may be at increased risk of breast cancer, as well as other cancers.
I was given a number of options to help manage my cancer risk. My options included surveillance, prophylactic surgery, chemoprevention, and risk avoidance.
Initially I chose surveillance and risk avoidance. Basically, every three months I rotated between vaginal ultrasounds, breast MRI’s, mammograms, clinical breast exams and blood work. Also, I was instructed to limit alcohol (I really do try my hardest), processed food and red meat. Daily cardio was also suggested. I have to be honest, after years of this madness, I was seriously considering the surgery. I didn’t mind the healthy diet, I enjoyed the exercise; but I was really nervous every time I had to go get one of the tests! I began to dread them. Not to mention the fact that I was getting close to the age of my mother when she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer (she was 38).
After seven years of nothing, my doctors discovered I had a mass on my right ovary. I was given two options: ” keep an eye on it” or have a hysterectomy. I was 33, married, had a child… And saw pros and cons with either scenario. Whatever decision I made would affect not only me, but my husband and my son.
Life throws us curve balls both personally and professionally, just a fact of life. But in most cases, we always have a choice how we behave or act in a situation. We may not be able to change the outcome, but we can control how we think or feel.
So the next time someone or something is driving you bananas or you’re finally taking control of your life after being in a negative relationship or suffering from an addiction … Remember, you can throw in the towel OR you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face.
Once again I find myself at a loss of words, trying to express my extreme gratitude to all of you for making Team PINK INSPIRES such a success in the 2012 Cancer Relay for Life!!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, without your support and generosity our participation would not be possible!
Team PINK INSPIRES saw some changes and challenges with our venue and team for the 2012 Relay. As some of us had moved to the Orangeville area we decided to change our venue /location from the Milton Relay to the Dufferin County Relay. We are happy to say the new venue was awesome and well organized–we had plenty of activities to keep us busy all night long (despite the crazy weather we had lol). We had many team mates that were unable to participate at the event this year for various personal reasons, some of which were unfortunately directly related to this specific cause and the reason we relay year after year. One team member lost her mother a few short weeks ago and another is currently supporting and caring for her Mom as she “fights” this battle. Team PINK INSPIRES was proud and honored to relay on behalf of ALL of our team members, most especially those who were with us in spirit, with the hope that our participation brought some Comfort, Support, Strength and Hope to our PINK INSPIRES family <3
Now despite being down so many teammates –PINK INSPIRES was rear’in to go!!!!!!!!!! We were up for the challenge, and boy did we kick some butt!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We left Dufferin County wondering who the new kids on the “track” were 😉 lol
Considering there were only 5 members fundraising for the 2012 Relay, PINK INSPIRES set an aggressive team goal of $5000! I am THRILLED to let you know that we surpassed our goal, achieving $5210!!!!
The Relay night is a real Tribute, to all those amazingly courageous and strong people who have had to face this disease. It’s a night that is dedicated to fighting back and having Hope, and believing that with all of our help we will find a cure…
As I say every year it continues to be one of the most personally rewarding nights in my life. Every year I am reminded how truly blessed I am, and how fortunate we all are. This disease does not discriminate, not by gender, ethnicity or age…and that my friends is clear to all when you stand around the track honoring and cheering for the most courageous and strong toddlers, youth, teens, parents, grandparents as they walk the first lap of the night –dedicated to them –the Survivors of Cancer Lap! It certainly is a night that helps put everything into perspective, a humbling experience really. I welcome any of you to join this journey with me & my team next year, …I assure you that it is an experience you will never ever forget.
Much Love, Happiness, and Good Health to you all.
Kerry Team Captain – PINK INSPIRES xoxoxo
Congratulations to the Breast Friends Edmonton Dragon Boat Racing Team on an incredible Fundraiser last night! So many people and sponsors came out to show their support of this team of women who bring “Awareness and Hope in a Dragon Boat”.
Through Dragon Boat Racing the +60 Team Members strengthen their bodies and spirits knowing the benefits of exercise both during and after cancer treatment.
The results are still being tallied… But with the generous donations from last night, we are hopeful we surpassed +$20K. All donations help the team promote awareness that there is life after a breast cancer diagnosis. The women train and travel, representing the proud city of Edmonton, while spreading their message to others.
Good Luck this summer on the Water Girls!
We’re SO Proud of each and every one of you!