It was May of 2018 that I was introduced to the Breast Cancer Coalition.
I was 39-years old and working full time in a small dental practice as a registered dental hygienist. Providing comprehensive treatment and working with patients fulfilled my caretaking spirit. Outside of work, my husband and I were raising our daughters, ages two and five. We were active in preschool and playdates, and frequent flyers at Rochester Museum and Science Center and the Strong Museum of Play.
But one afternoon, there was this lump in my armpit. My mind whispered the words, but I was able to push down the worry: “I’m too young, I can’t have cancer.” When I gained the courage to see my primary care doctor, he seemed to feel that it probably wasn’t cancer. We needed a mammogram for imaging, just to be safe.
The mammogram led to an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy…which finally led to the words I didn’t think I’d hear: “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer.”
Breast cancer was never part of my agenda.
I felt like I was being swallowed up by a storm of change. Nothing was within my control. The calendar quickly filled with medical appointments. When my pathology report revealed HER2+ disease, I learned this form of cancer often responds well to chemotherapy. My treatment schedule quickly proved ‘inconvenient’ at work. The storm of change kept coming. I needed to be met in that storm. I needed to talk to others who had experienced it. When I called the Coalition and met with Holly, Jennifer, Ali, and Pat, I was speaking with others who knew the storm. I was warmly welcomed and heard words that spoke to my soul: “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” I could be angry at the storm and how it turned my little family upside down. I could talk, and others who knew what it meant to go through this were listening at Brown Bag Fridays and the Thursday Evening Networking group. The Coalition brought me solace. I got through chemo, surgeries, immunotherapy, and radiation with the help and support of other warriors who have experienced the storm. Through this support, I have felt courage and empowerment to turn back and help others who find themselves in the storm.
I feel extremely privileged to have joined the Breast Cancer Coalition team and look forward to steering the programs that will help others weather the storm.