At 45, I was diagnosed with infiltrating and ductal carcinoma in situ in my left breast in June of 2005.  The month of June was spent meeting my new doctors (oncologist, breast specialist and plastic surgeon) and having many, many tests.  I had never had surgery or a hospital stay before, and I hated needles.  My mom flew in from Connecticut to go with me to the doctor visits and tests, and be my support.

Kathy talks about overcoming breast cancer
Kathy talks about overcoming breast cancer

I had my mastectomy and reconstruction on July 7th.  My plastic surgeon gave me a book to read, which had several stories of other women and their experiences through surgery and recovery.  The book was very helpful on what I could expect.  I finally had to stop reading because I was making myself more nervous.  My mom once again flew down to be there for me.  The reconstruction and recovery went very well with no complications.  I had to sleep in a lazy boy for about two weeks before I could get in and out of bed easily.  I pinned my drain bulbs to colorful men shirts that were big and comfortable, and went shopping.  I did things a little slower, but continued with normal daily activities.  Mom got to be a pro at the drainage tubes.  Three weeks later I had an in/out procedure to get my port for chemo sessions.  Believe it or not, I had more problems with the recovery of my small surgeries then I did with my reconstruction.

I had my head shaved August 26th and was fitted for my wig.  While I was getting the wig styled, my Mom stated the wig looked better than my actual hair.  My comment to her was sarcastic–“Thanks mom, there’s the door.”  On August 29th my mom had a stroke that affected her right side.  I called 911, and she was rushed to the hospital.  My mom stayed in the hospital for 3 days and then was transferred to the rehab center within that hospital on the same day I was to have my 2nd chemo session.  She insisted that I not cancel.

A good friend offered to take the necessary days off from work to go with me to the remaining 4 chemo sessions.  I ended up calling her the “Ice Nazi.”  Nurse gave me a tip to put my hands in ice water during one stage of my chemo so that my nails would not turn colors and possibly fall off.  After each chemo session I would stop off at the rehab center and make sure mom was doing okay and to show her that I was okay.  I would go home and rest for a few hours and then go back and have supper with her.  The following day, my neighbor would drive me to the cancer center to get my Neulasta shot.  I was lucky and blessed to have had minor side effects throughout the chemo.

My mom spent 30 days in the rehab center, and now it was time to come home.  Going to a Nursing home was out of the question.  We both decided that she would come back to my house, and we would have to get a person 24/7 until my last chemo session, which was December 1.  Prior to my mom coming home, I needed to get handrails installed in my bathroom and the guest bedroom and additional rails for getting up and down the stairs.  I also had to find an agency that offers 24/7 service.  The day before my mom came home September 29th, another friend finished installing the last of the rails that were needed.  My mom calls him her “Handy Dandy Repair Man.”

I started the New Year completely bald.  I made it through my 28 sessions of radiation with no issues.  Having to have radiation every day is more a nuisance than anything else.  I was able to schedule my appointments in the afternoon and then go home and rest.

Things I learned:

–My Faith is very strong and I had a lot of people saying prayers for me.

–Always keep a positive attitude

–I’m not super woman and I needed to rely on my friends to help.  Your friends want to help, so let them.

–That God works in mysterious ways.  My mom had her stroke while taking care of me and we ended up taking care of each other.

–You are allowed to have bad days, but don’t dwell on them.  Tip given to me: If you need to cry, cry but only for 5 minutes and get over it.

–Seeing how strong and persistent my mom was at 75 during and after her stroke gave me the extra strength I needed to get through my treatments.

–That everyone’s experience with breast cancer is different and that everything you read or hear about may never ever happen to you.

–Work is only a job and that I needed to start taking time for me.

–I’m stronger now than I was before I was diagnosed and also healthier.  I signed up for Weight Watchers because with Breast Cancer you have a tendency to put on weight, and I’ve lost 25 pounds.