It was October 21st and my significant other and I decided to go on a weekend getaway to celebrate our birthdays. We live in Portland OR, so what better way to celebrate than staying in a secluded cabin near Mt. Hood. We were enjoying the peace and calm until I noticed a lump in my right breast. I panicked. A million questions were running through my head that no one could answer. Mind you, I am an ICU RN and my significant other is a Nurse Practitioner and with any medical issue we both end up diving in, researching and worrying all at the same time. So as soon as we returned from our trip, I scheduled a visit with my PCP and she set up a mammogram and ultrasound.
“I was in the complete unknown and the feeling of angst could not leave me.”
The days leading up to my mammogram and ultrasound were daunting. At that time in my life, I was starting to develop as an ICU RN, my significant other and I had plans to get married the summer of 2020 and we were going to travel the world together. The day of my imaging had not come soon enough and I can recall it so well. I had worked a 12 hour shift the night before and I was entering an unknown part of the hospital that I worked at. I walked through the double doors and prepared for my mammogram. Everyone was kind and helpful, yet I was on edge. I was in the complete unknown and the feeling of angst could not leave me. The radiologist entered the room with my results and the look on her face was pure terror. Her exact words were “this is not good.” The combination of sleep deprivation and shock hit me and I couldn’t speak. I sat there with no expression on my face and I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the room. I’m not quite sure how I got to the parking lot, but I did. I remember calling my best friend in tears, shaking and not making any sense. He was also in shock and wasn’t quite sure what to make of anything. We both cried together, but I finally told him things are going to be ok.
Soon after I met with my oncologist and we did a PET scan that showed a 5 cm mass in my right breast, affected lymph nodes, and a 1.7 cm mass in my liver due to metastasis. I did genetic testing to see if I had a predisposition and everything came back negative. We immediately started chemotherapy in the month of December and that consisted of 8 cycles within 4 months. My body had changed drastically. The nausea and fatigue hit hard and I wasn’t able to do the things I used to, such as running and hiking. Walking and daily house chores became exhausting. Chemotherapy shed me of my hair and pride. But something inside me changed as well. My will to live. Even though chemotherapy stripped me and weakened me, my mind felt stronger. I started to meditate everyday, incorporate yoga, and read books about other survivors. I felt this compelling sense of motivation that kept me fighting.
“I had 25 sessions of radiation to undergo. My appointments were Monday through Friday at 1pm.”
After chemotherapy, I had a bilateral mastectomy and a liver ablation. Surgeries were tough, because it’s physically painful and the healing process takes time. It took about 8 weeks for my mobility and strength to return. During these months I learned how to be patient. I learned how to be patient with my mind, body, and spirit. I learned that beautiful things take time to grow, like the large sequoia trees that start off as seeds, but can grow up to 300 ft.
As I started to heal from surgery, I had 25 sessions of radiation to undergo. My appointments were Monday through Friday at 1pm. The routine of radiation started to feel like a job for me. It was very structured and I enjoyed seeing the same employees who would cheer me on in my journey. I initially did not have any side effects from radiation and I actually started to feel more energized during these treatments. At this time I gained a sense of independence. I began to feel confident in who I was becoming and started to believe that I am stronger than I used to be and I can take on anything.
“We may not have had the perfect wedding, or traveled the world as I planned, but I can say I survived treatments and stage 4 breast cancer.”
Once I finished radiation, I thought that I’d feel relieved, but instead I ended up in a deep depression. The side effects from radiation crept through causing me to have pain in my right chest and arm and my energy levels started to decrease. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way, so I talked with my oncologist. She said it’s like getting in a car accident. During the trauma, we have all this adrenaline running through our bodies, it’s in the aftermath that we start to feel the actual pain. She validated my feelings and told me it was normal to feel this way. So I grieved. I allowed myself to feel all the pain, anxiety, fear, and anger. I recognized it, felt it, but let it go. It was a very difficult time for me, because covid-19 was also happening so I really felt alone and I was not able to see my family and friends as often as I wanted to.
But with time, my mind and body began to heal. I remembered all the things I learned through my journey and continued to remind myself that this year was an accomplishment. I not only grew into the person that I am, but I grew with the loving support from all my friends and family. My significant other at the time and now husband has been the constant through it all. He has never strayed away even through the darkest and scariest times. We may not have had the perfect wedding, or traveled the world as I planned, but I can say I survived treatments and stage 4 breast cancer.
Get your Annual Breast Cancer Check-up
The importance of a doctor check-up during the early stages of a developing cancer cannot be overstated! It is highly recommended that all women get an annual breast cancer check-up to make sure they are on top of their health and can nip one of the worst diseases in the world in the bud.
Staying informed on the symptoms of breast cancer can be the difference between an effective treatment plan and a late diagnosis. Click here to read more about the symptoms, types, and treatment plans for breast cancer.