A Personal Story: Lori M.
From Reluctance to Hope
True confession: I actually used to like going for my mammograms. I would take an afternoon off of work, meet my husband for lunch, then spend the rest of the afternoon in a cozy room with a fireplace and warm shawls. I would read the magazines and look at the pretty earrings. My kids were young and our life was busy. I didn’t mind a few minutes of discomfort for a whole afternoon to myself. Until…THAT time. When the technician called me from the doorway, instead of taking me to a conference room to say everything was fine, I heard very different news. Thus began my initiation into the club you don’t want to join.
The first phone call I made after my initial breast cancer diagnosis in November of 2004 at age 42 was to Holly Anderson. Thankfully, my husband knew her from his previous volunteer efforts with the Coalition. Holly immediately had us come in for a super-informative Breast Cancer 101 session. She helped us understand the new and unfamiliar vocabulary of breast cancer so we could navigate the scary decisions that needed to be made. I loved her on sight.
Telling my children, ages 9, 12, and 13, was hard. But we explained the situation calmly and with a great deal of hope. They had a wonderful role model in a favorite teacher who taught throughout her treatment and was an example of courage, hope, and a positive attitude. (Love you Susan R.) They became my little champions and chief supporters. A lumpectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, hair loss, and Tamoxifen followed. I was supported and comforted all along the way by the Coalition, which became a comfortable, familiar, welcoming, and friendly second home. I met some of my all-time favorite people there. I cannot mention them all for fear of inadvertently forgetting someone, but one, Phyllis C. (the “Queen Mum”) became a beloved figure for my own family, especially for my daughter.
I was able to participate in many Coalition programs and volunteered for fundraising events and outreach opportunities: yoga, Qi Gong, the Pink Ribbon Walk and Run, the Artrageous Affair, MANY evening seminars, working the booths at festivals, PALS mentoring, and so much more. Friends and family came out in droves to support me, my doctors were AMAZING, and I started feeling well again. Yes, it was the club I never wanted to join, but I was grateful for the love and support. I thought I had learned all I needed to know with my first diagnosis. I would see information about the Common Ground group for those living with metastatic breast or gynecologic cancer and say a quick prayer for them, grateful that was not my club.
Fast forward to 2019. Sudden, unexplained, and excruciating pain in my shoulder, arm, and chest began to plague me. I never knew when it would hit and no one could figure out what was causing it. So began a round of Emergency Room visits, appointments with my primary care doctor, neurologists, hematologists, pain management, orthopedics, chiropractors, acupuncture, and massage. I was diagnosed with a blood clot, torn rotator cuff, carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthritis. But nothing explained the pain, which was increasing. So were the pain medications. I was truly broken, depressed, anxious, and weak. Two angels in the form of doctors led me to my diagnosis. My hematologist encouraged me to re-engage with my oncology team and my neuro surgeon, after examining me, looked me in the eyes without talking