Please share your story: : It started early in the summer of 2016. I was breastfeeding my daughter, Savanna and I started to have some redness and hardness in my breast. She completely refused to go anywhere near that breast, so I knew something was off. Following my husbands request, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with mastitis. I was given antibiotics and was sent on my way. This went on for a couple of months. Nothing was making it better, if anything, it was getting worse. My doctor then sent me to a surgeon-thinking there was a blockage or something that might need to be taken care of. After a couple weeks under his care, and a negative ultrasound, he said, "it should be better by now, we need to do a biopsy." In this middle of all of this craziness, I did a bit of research. I came across something called Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I fell to the floor as I told my husband about it, everything that was written on it, just fit how I was feeling and my symptoms. It was Monday, September 19 when I was at work, anxiously waiting for the call from the doctor about the biopsy results. I looked at my TimeHop for the day, and realized that 2 years ago on that date, we found out I was pregnant-after a year of trying. When I realized this, I knew the news wasn't going to be good. I felt like this was a sign from God that He sent me this baby girl to help me through what was about to happen in my life. I wanted the news to be good, but deep down, I just knew it wasn't. Then I got the call that confirmed it, "I'm sorry, it's not good news, it's cancer." I immediately called my husband hysterical, called my mom and left work to go be with my daughter and husband. The next couple of weeks were filled with appointments and scans, and they all seem to be a blur. It was the most absolute terrifying weeks of my life. My instincts were right, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Anyone that searches this online knows that there is nothing good about it. The stats aren't good, the prognosis isn't good, it's just not good. Every time I talked to a doctor, the first thing I would say is, I just wanna watch my baby grow up. That's all I thought about and still is. I started chemo a couple weeks after the day of diagnosis. Chemo sucks. I have really great friends and family that helped with so much during this time. I didn't feel good enough or have the energy to do some everyday tasks and they all were there for me helping. The one constant is that fiery little red head of mine. No matter how I felt, no matter how much I wanted to stay in bed all day, I had to get up and take care of her. People couldn't be with me everyday and I didn't want them to be. Savanna kept me going, I call her my little life saver. I will never be able to explain to her what she did for me. I also dramatically changed my lifestyle. From the food I ate to the products I was putting on my body. I tried to have as little stress in my life that I could. I finished chemo on January 18 and was so relieved for that chapter to be over. After the 2 chemo sessions, I really saw changes in my breast, by the end, my doctor couldn't tell that anything was ever there. It was back to 'normal', but it still had to go. I had surgery on March 1, a double mastectomy with lymph node removal and I chose not to get reconstruction. I'm so grateful to say that the cancer treatment worked. I had a PET scan before surgery that came back clear, and the pathology report from surgery came back with a complete pathological response. Hallelujah! I still have to do radiation as part of the IBC treatment protocol. I am prepping to start that next month. I have learned so much through this and I feel like I'm a different person than I was 6 months ago. I have a new outlook on life. I hate cancer, but I love what it did for me and my life. I will continue to live as healthy of a lifestyle that I can so I can do what I can to prevent this from ever coming back. Take that cancer!
How has your story shaped who you are today?: I'm a different person. I physically don't recognize the woman in the mirror, bald and boobless, but I really don't recognize WHO I am. I don't want to be the same person I was before cancer, I want to be better. When faced with your own mortality, you think very deeply about life. I appreciate everyone in my life so much more now. I'm so grateful to be alive and I never want to take advantage of being so ever again. I want to live life to the fullest. And I will.
What compelled you to share your story with us?: I was at the Beautiful event last weekend and was so inspired with all the women there to support one another. It's incredible what we can do if we all just work together and be there for one another.
What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: You got this! Don't doubt yourself, ever. You can do this and you will do this. It's ok to be scared, cancer is a large mountain to climb but you can do it! And you ARE beautiful, even when you don't feel so.