A Survivor's Story - Janet
I was born in South Carolina. Our family moved to Texas in 1983 when my father got transferred with his job. I have been in Texas ever since. I have been married to my amazing husband, Mike, for 21 years. We have two beautiful children Michael and Savannah. They are both sophomores in college now, so we are empty nesters
I am the National Sales Manager for Marena. I started Marena roughly 5 months ago. When Dale, our President and CEO, approached me about an opportunity with Marena, I immediately became interested once I learned about the Mastectomy products. It became personal to me because I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor.
Q: LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY WITH BREAST CANCER.
I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Cancer in 2010. I discovered a lump in my breast during a routine self-examination. I am embarrassed to admit that initially I shrugged it off thinking it was nothing. I was young and I felt great— It was probably just a swollen lymph node or something.
A couple of weeks later, I checked to see if the lump was still there and it was. I finally shared it with my husband. He was immediately concerned and said I needed to go see a doctor, so I scheduled a mammogram and biopsy. A few days after the appointment, I received a call from my doctor. She called to tell me she had the results back. I had Breast Cancer. I thought it had to be a mistake. There was no history of cancer in my family. I kept going back to the fact that I felt great. If I had cancer, I would have symptoms… I would feel tired or sick.
I ended up getting a second opinion. Not only did they confirm that I had Breast Cancer, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Due to the size and aggressiveness of the cancer, we opted to have chemo first. Those who know me know that one of the hardest parts for me was knowing I would lose my hair. I had big Texas hair— I wore it big and I wore it proud! But, more importantly, losing my hair meant that my children were going to know that I was sick. I was going to have to tell them. How do you tell young children that their mom has cancer? Is there a way to protect them? Before I started losing my hair, I went wig shopping. I told the kids I was getting my hair done and I wanted to show them my new haircut when I get home. I came home wearing a wig and asked, “How do you like my new hair style?” They told me how pretty I looked. This is how Mike and I started the conversation… the conversation that Mom has cancer. We told them that I was going to be taking some strong medicine to fight the cancer. We let them know that it may make me tired and would cause me to lose my hair so I would be wearing a wig but not to worry… their mom is strong.
My journey began. I went through 6 months of Chemo followed by surgery. I had opted for a Lumpectomy. During surgery, they discovered that the chemo didn’t shrink the tumor as much as they had hoped so they ended up taking out a lot more tissue than originally anticipated. The doctor called me when they got the pathology back from the surgery. She said, “I have good news and bad news.” The good news was they misdiagnosed me. How is this good news? They originally thought that I had Triple Negative Cancer. The pathology results showed that I actually had Estrogen and Progesterone Positive cancer. They better understand what triggers this type of cancer to grow and have estrogen blocking medicines post treatment that help prevent reoccurrence.
The bad news is the pathology results also showed that they didn’t get clear margins which meant a second surgery… this time was a mastectomy. After surgery, I had daily radiation for 12 weeks. Then the final step was reconstruction. I would have to wait 12 months before I could have reconstructive surgery because of the affects of the radiated skin. It was a long journey.
Q: WHAT KIND OF FEELINGS OR EMOTIONS DID YOU EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU WERE FIRST DIAGNOSED?
It was an emotional rollercoaster. When I got the news, I remember crying days on end. I tried to attend a company meeting the week after I got the news of my cancer diagnosis. This was post diagnosis, but before I had met with the Oncologist to determine my course of treatment. I thought I needed a distraction. I ended up breaking down at the meeting and pulling my manager aside to tell him my news. It was incredibly difficult to say the words, “I have cancer.” Both my manager and my company were incredibly supportive throughout the process.
I cried a lot in the beginning. I was angry. I was scared. I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me. But at the end of the day, I was determined to be positive. My faith in God helped me get through it. I knew God had a plan for me. I didn’t quite know what He had planned but I knew He had me in His hands. Prayer and faith were my source of strength. This experience helped give me a new perspective on life and what’s truly important while we are here on earth.
Q: WHO OR WHAT MADE THE MOST IMPACT IN HELPING TO NAVIGATE SUCH A DIFFICULT EXPERIENCE?
I am incredibly blessed. I had such a strong support group during my journey. My husband was amazing! I credit him for saving my life— He was my rock! He made me get into a doctor as soon as he heard that I discovered a lump and was with me every step of the way. Oddly enough, I feel that this experience made our relationship stronger.
My parents were supportive! My mom and my husband made many trips to the Med Center with me. My kids were my inspiration and my motivation to get better. I was determined to beat this!
Ironically, there were several of us at my company going through cancer at the same time, so we talked often. Shared stories, lifted each other up, supported one another, prayed for each other, and shed many tears together. They helped me understand that my thoughts and feelings were normal and its ok. They helped me more than they will ever know.
Q: WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO PROVIDE TO WOMEN READING THIS TODAY?
I encourage every woman to get regular mammograms and do monthly self-breast exams. Had I not found the lump on my own, I may not be here today. Early detection is so important. I’m proud to say that I’ve been cancer free for 10 years now.
For those who are fighting cancer today, I’m praying for you. Stay positive! If you need support or someone to talk to, please let me know. I had some incredible warriors help me during my journey and I hope to continue to pay it forward as often as I can. For those reading this article, I encourage you to live each day to the fullest. Be kind to one another, hug your family.
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