Reader discretion & possible trigger warning. This post was submitted by a guest writer; the words were not written by myself and it makes reference to cancer.
A Beautiful Reminder is a mini-series from a breast cancer survivor raising awareness and inspiring others through her story. She is a courageous and strong woman. I am not only grateful but honoured to have her story shared on Sum Of Her.
Have you ever been in a position where there are things that trigger you? A smell, a taste, the sound of someone’s voice or a sound? I have so many triggers; the littlest things can trigger memories, pains and feelings. There are some days where I can smell something, and a wave of depression takes hold of me. I’m sure the thought right now is, why would a healthy female have triggers like that, what could have caused it?
The day was January 30th, 2014, when I innocently visited my doctor for an annual exam. I shared my concern regarding a small and hopefully irrelevant lump in my breast. It was no bigger than a pea; however, my mom passed away from breast cancer, and my aunt is a two-time survivor, I found it to be necessary to ask what it could be. At the time, I was told that it was the result of a clogged milk duct, and there was no need to be concerned.
Fast forward seven months as I was packing my belongings to relocate myself and my daughter to the US to further my education at Oakwood University. Amongst the chaos, I thought that I had pulled a muscle or strained myself somehow during the move. My cousin and friend had a quick look and assumed that I was correct. No need to worry…
Who would have thought that the next day would be one to remember?
One night at home in Huntsville with my soon to be three-year-old daughter Harlow, we were cuddling and doing homework, Harlow used to pet me as if she felt this would bring me comfort. It was during this evening routine that her hand glided over an unusual bump in my chest in the location that had previously been my “pulled muscle”. My daughter had discovered my lump. My cousin had begged me to go to the doctor asap to be checked immediately; I promised I would.
I went to the health services centre at my university the next day. I really didn’t think that I had anything to worry about, I went only to keep my promise to Karecia… I was referred to the hospital. Who would have thought that the next day would be one to remember?
I had an appointment at 10 am at Huntsville Hospital’s Breast Centre, and I rolled up late, as always (one day I’ll make time). I had a mammogram, it was terrible; if anyone tells you, they don’t hurt they’re lying. I was then asked to sit and wait again cause they wanted to run another test, in my mind I was like I can’t wait I have class but out my mouth came…ok! Now, this next test is where it gets a bit… nerve-wracking. I laid on the table as this lady performed an ultrasound, she was talking to me, and we laughed until I realised I was talking to myself and she was just, quiet. She asked me to wait and left in a hurry. She then came back letting me know she needed to do the scan again. This time it was one of those awkward silent appointments where you don’t say anything and just twiddled your thumbs. She finished doing her thing and quickly left the room, must have realised I wasn’t behind her and came back to get me. She took me to an office that had loads of monitors around the room, all of which had the same picture on it. The radiologist asked me to sit down and pointed to what was on the screen, asking me “do you know what that is?”
Three days later, on September 3rd, I was called into my Health Services Centre at school; they asked me to come at 2 pm. I picked Harlow up from school early and went to straight to campus; we waited in this light pale room with one ticking clock on the wall, and it smelled like alcohol and germs. The doctor and nurse came into the room trying to smile; I instantly knew something was wrong. She held my hand and said “we have received your results, you do have breast cancer” she continued to talk about, well I’m not sure because I instantly zoned out. The clock seemed to stop, and my head was spinning. I looked at Harlow who was on her iPad, and she gave me her little wink, I said thank you to the doctor and walked out. I went to my car and cried like a baby, I mean ugly-cried until Harlow opened her mouth and said: “what’s wrong momma” and I told her that mommy was sick, she then quickly said “it’s ok mommy, you get better”, as I cried all I could say to her was “ok baby, mommy will get better.”
The rest is a whirlwind, the next day, I met my surgeon, and my surgery (lumpectomy) was scheduled for September 10th—I needed to get it out of me. Over the next few days, I would go for an MRI to check the measurements of the tumour, I had blood work and DNA testing, I met my oncologist and also sat with the nurse who went over my complete diagnosis. I had stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Er/Pr+, Her2 negative, grade 3, I know, a mouthful.
During my appointment with the oncologist I asked him to please let me know my chances of survival, this would allow me to advise him of the course of treatment I wished to take. My surgery date was changed to September 11th as I now had to have a full mastectomy of the right breast; my tumour was 2.5cm, I had a tumour in my lymph node, and 16 surrounding lymph nodes had to be removed in order to stop the spread. My chances of survival in my surgeons’ eyes were 32%.
Four weeks went by, and on October 9th I started my first round of chemotherapy. I entered Clearview Cancer Institute with a smile on my face, I had just had a Chick-fil-A breakfast, and my sister was right there with me. Went in, picked out my chair (this would be my fav chair for the next few months) met my nurse, joked (like I always do) and then I broke down. My sister, who does not hug, at all, hugged me and told me that I got this. She said that I have always been and will always be strong and that I am not to let this get the best of me. She repeated it over until I was able to catch myself. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t feel the effects of the drugs until about Friday night; it was Thursday morning. I was ready, we started with 1 out of 3 steroid injections, the last one had to be pushed in real slow, or it would feel like I had “ants in my pants”.
Once I was given all three steroids and two different nausea medications, it was time for Adriamycin or what we like to call Red Devil. It’s red in colour, and the nurse has to inject it in inside of you slowly. Because my port was placed in my chest during my surgery, it was given to me through there. As it hit my stomach, it was the worst feeling I have ever felt. My stomach burned like it was full of acid; I instantly felt sick. At that moment, I realised Chick-fil-A was a bad idea. I never made it to the weekend, by that night, I was stuck to my bed, sick, weak, could barely hold my head up and didn’t think I could go through that again. But I did, I had eight rounds of Adriamycin and Cytoxan (AC) and four rounds of Taxol, I was supposed to do eight rounds of Taxol, but I had neuropathy in my hands and fingers (my left was worst then my right) and became ill and was rushed to the hospital twice. Dr Schreeder stopped all treatment at that point and sent me for 27 rounds of radiation.
With the constant radiation I watched my skin slowly burn off my body, I was sore, I was red and blistered, and I was suffering from extreme fatigue. I struggled through my classes and treatment, I struggled with being a mom and a patient, I suffered/suffer from anxiety and depression, I suffered from feeling alone in a world where everyone was reaching out to me. It was the hardest battle of my life.
Part 2 will be released on the 7th of December 2020. Make sure you are following on our social media to ensure not to miss it.