Diapers-n-Heels has started a new series we’re calling Life with Kids. In this series are interviewing parents from around the world who inspire, empower and encourage the rests of us!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
It is only fitting that this month I introduce you to my very best friend in the entire world, Jennifer! She not only smart, beautiful, and funny as all get up, she continues each day to inspire and empower all that know her as she kicked Breast Cancer’s A**
How did you find out you breast cancer?
I previously had a cyst, and months later I was annoyed that it was not going away and it started to cause discomfort. My skin eventually puckered and something as simple as hugging my husband was painful. I went back to the doctor, 10 months after getting the cyst checked out, and it turned out that what I was feeling was a cancerous tumor. After my surgery, the Dr. told me that the cyst was still in there, so I had a tumor that grew from an undetectable size to 10 months later being almost 5 centimeters. I had stage III, invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. I was estrogen and progesterone positive, but HERII and BRCA (gene) negative.
How old were you?
How old was your son?
Did you tell him you were sick?
I eventually had to tell him that Mommy was sick because chemo would wipe me out for a couple days, so I couldn’t help take care of him. I told him I was sick, but that the medicine was going to make me all better and that it just made mommy sleepy for a couple days. He was very understanding and (even) gentle for a 4 year old. He’s always been an independent child, so it didn’t surprise me that he took the situation in stride.
Were there a few different courses of actions you could have taken?
Yes, there were several courses I could have taken, but I wanted to take the most aggressive course giving me the highest chances of survival. Chances of having more children with this aggressive treatment plan were slim, but what good would it be to have another child if I couldn’t be around for either one.
How did you decide on the course you took?
In agreeance with my Onconolgist, we decided on the most aggressive treatment possible since I was young and wanted to increase my chances of survival as much as I could. Prior to any treatment, I had a single mastectomy to remove the tumor. My Dr. then put me on three chemo drugs (taxotere, Adriamycin, and cyclophosamide). Post chemo I had 6 weeks of daily radiation and then a mastectomy of my other breast. Following surgery, I started Tamoxifen daily as well as a monthly shot of Taxotere…both hormone inhibitors. Taxotere lasted for two years and I continue to take Tamoxifen for the unforeseeable future. Lastly…I just finished breast reconstruction last October. I waited on this surgery for a couple of years as my skin needed to heal from radiation so that it could be expanded for the implants. The only procedure left is nipple reconstruction if I decide to do it…the jury is still out.
Was your son part of the decision you made?
Every decision I made was for my son. I wanted to be around for him…to see him grow up and parent him. A boy needs his Mom and I went as aggressive as possible in my treatment plan to guarantee that would be the case.
Can we hear a little about your treatment? How you felt? How you that changed your home life?
I had 6 chemo treatments and they were every three weeks. The first couple of days I felt really bad. I never got physically ill, but it’s a feeling that you might throw up…like being pregnant and hungover at the same time (I’ve only done them before separately, but if I had both at the same time, that’s what I assume it would feel like). The third week, before the next upcoming treatment, is when I felt the best and that’s when I would try and spend quality time with my son because I was feeling like “myself”. During those first few days after chemo, I had no choice but to lean on my husband and family. I was physically unable to take care of anyone or anything else, so depending on others was difficult for me as I have always been strong and independent. Diseases like this can really disrupt a home, but it actually brought strength and peace to mine. My husband stepped up and filled in for me with our home and son. Although I still continued to work throughout treatment, I had the support, peace and calm needed to heal and fight.
You lost your hair in chemo. How did you explain that to your son?
I’m actually really proud at how we initiated this with my son. Brady and his Dad shaved their heads…acting like it was a cool father/son event to both get “buzzer heads”. So, I told Brady that I didn’t want to be left out, so I got a “buzzer head” too to be like Brady and Daddy. He thought it was pretty cool that I wanted to be just like him and wasn’t freaked out about Mom having a shaved head. Once his hair eventually grew out and mine didn’t, I explained that the medicine I was taking kept my hair from growing back, but that it would eventually just like his did.
What was the hardest part of being a parent during treatment?
Not being present for my son. I spent 2-4 days in bed, not available to anyone. It took all the strength I had to just keep going let alone care for an active toddler. Hearing his sweet little voice downstairs while I was upstairs in bed pained me. I wanted nothing more than to sit around the dinner table listening to rabble on and on about his day and whatever interested him at the time…elephants most likely.
How has having gone through that journey changed you?
I’m more compassionate, patient and happy in life. I’m thankful for every day I have to spend with those I care about most…especially my son. I have to admit that there are some days when I allow the dark cloud of cancer recurrence to loom over my head, but all I can do is follow my treatment and cut down on stress as much as I can. As a working, single mom, that can prove to be difficult, but I’m truly blessed to have amazing friends and family to help me and keep me sane. Wine doesn’t hurt either…it’s an antioxidant after all…right?!
Is it something you think about every day or something that seems in the past?
Each day is different. My scars make it hard to not think about it every day since they stare at me in the mirror, but chemo, radiation, baldness and illness are all things of the past and I’m just fine with that! 🙂
What words of advice do you have for all women (about getting checked) or any mom that might have just found out they have cancer?
Early detection is KEY! Please, please, please get checked and/or self-check…even teach your significant other how to do it (this could be a win-win for sure). 🙂 No one is too young to get this disease. If you have been diagnosed, keep a positive attitude. I’m convinced that attitude is half the battle and what you can control. Trust in your medical staff and let your course of treatment do the rest. Be open to the love and support of those that are around you. You will find it to be very humbling and heartwarming…it made all the difference for me.
Anything else you would like to add?
Kids are resilient and strong. If you put on a strong face, they will do the same. I made my son part of my treatment and didn’t shelter him from it. I wanted him to be a part of the process…to understand as best he could what was going on so that he could feel like he was essential to my recovery and making Mommy all better because he really was. He was my light at the end of a dark tunnel.