My first diagnosis was stage IIIC breast cancer, which is as close as you can get to stage IV without actually being stage IV, which is terminal. At that point, IIIC, you’re still considered curable.
My oncologist told me that I had triple-negative breast cancer, which can be more aggressive and more difficult to treat than other forms of breast cancer. (Triple-negative breast cancer doesn’t respond to some common breast-cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy.)
I went through chemotherapy and then had a double mastectomy in May of 2018. The lump was in one breast, but I felt like I would always worry that we’d missed something if I hadn’t had both removed. I have three sons—now 12, 13 and 16—and every step of the way, I’ve wanted to do whatever I could to heal myself and be here for them.
The mastectomy was followed by a second round of chemotherapy, which was followed by radiation. And then my oncologist said, “You’ve done all the treatment that’s reasonable at this point. Now you need to go back to your normal life and watch for any symptoms. We’ll check you out every three to six months.”
After recovering from the radiation I went back to work the first week in December. I worked for a month and then was diagnosed with stage IV cancer the first week of January.
The cancer had metastasized to my liver and lungs. I did even more chemotherapy, but a follow-up scan showed that the tumor in my liver had doubled in size in the three months since my last scan. Following treatment, some tumors will shrink or disappear. The 14-centimeter tumor in my liver didn’t react that way; it’s there, not getting smaller. There really isn’t much room left in my liver. For now, my best-case scenario is that the cancer doesn’t spread further.
It was really hard to tell my kids. I’ve always wanted to be really honest with them. I was honest about what I had and that it was serious. They’re old enough that they can do their own research. There was no point in trying to mislead them from the beginning. Also, I tried to be lighthearted.
My eldest son has thanked me a couple of times for handling things so well. He feels like the fact that I’m not complaining a lot or acting down or sad or depressed has been really helpful. I really try to stay positive and make the most out of all the moments that I still do have with them.
It was hard for them to see me go bald again. Having my hair grow back was a big milestone for my kids. My youngest, especially was so excited when my hair started to grow back. He would measure it and rub my head—he really celebrated me starting to look more normal again.