I just celebrated 21 years as a breast cancer survivor!
I realize what a major milestone that is and I am so thankful to be on this side of a cancer diagnosis. It’s a pretty hellacious thing to go through and I don’t wish it on anyone.
In 2002, I found a lump in my breast. Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer, so I was doing self-checks and found the lump. I was 31, so I thought there was no way it could be cancer, so I waited a few weeks to see if it would go away. It didn’t. So I went to my doctor who referred me to a fabulous surgeon. What followed next was a barrage of appointments and surgeries.
I began chemo in January and lost all of my hair. That’s devastating at any age! Did I mention devastating?! You don’t realize how much your hair is your identity (and how much it keeps you warm) until you lose it. I got a wig and it was cute for a wig, but it wasn’t the same.
I had chemo every 3 weeks for 6 treatments. I had the most fabulous chemo nurse, Bunny (who would eventually become a friend)! Her kindness and positivity helped me through some rough patches. I finished chemo in May.
Radiation started in the summer after wait and body recovery time. I got 7 small tattoos where they mark you so they know where to align the radiation machines each time. I had 35 rounds of radiation – 5 days/week for 7 weeks.
The last part of my treatment was taking Tamoxifen (a hormone suppressant) for 5 years.
I met my future husband, Matt, shortly after I finished all my treatments and barely had any hair. We got married on 7/7/07. We have a son, Grayson, who I think is a miracle after I had chemo and radiation!
In the last year, I have had some scares that led to further testing which lead to further testing which led to high anxiety-filled days and lots of sleepless nights waiting for results. The results eventually came back ok (thank God!), but after consideration, family discussion, and doctor consultation, I have decided to have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction.
My friends had a pink Happy Hour for me before my mastectomy. Everyone dressed in pink, we had pink cocktails and pink food, and there was lots of pink decor. I felt all the feels and all the love for sure.
On the last day at work before my mastectomy, my 2nd-grade students had a big surprise for me! I was in the hallway at the start of the day, ready to greet them, when I noticed one student wore a pink shirt that said “Mrs. Parks is our hero!” and had a graphic of a redheaded superhero (I’m a redhead). Then I noticed another of my students was wearing the same shirt. And then suddenly, I realized that ALL of my students were wearing this shirt! Some of my former students stopped by that morning and were wearing the shirts, too! Of course, tears were flowing from all the love!
My double mastectomy with reconstruction was on November 30, 2023. The pathology results came back that I had cancer in situ in the breast that I didn’t originally have cancer in. Since the cancer was encapsulated, it was non-spreading and was so small that it wouldn’t have been found for years. I, fortunately, will not have to have any further cancer treatments. I have been off work for December as I heal and recoup. I have been extremely fortunate to have recovered quickly. No doubt that a lot of my feeling good is from the support I have had from my family, friends, and students. I have slowly been gaining my stamina so I can go back to my regular routines and back to work in January 2024.