My Reason For Participating:
“To participate as a Survivor Artist for the Rare Chair Affair gives me another chance in my life to make a difference by doing something fun and to savor the ordinary everyday moments.”
My journey with breast cancer began on October 1, 1999. I had been on hormone replacement therapy for several years and I began to notice some changes in my breast. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound that turned out normal, so my hormone dosage was changed. The problem persisted. Finally, after 6 months, my surgeon agreed to do a biopsy. The very next day he called to tell me that I had breast cancer.
My life and my familyÕs lives were forever changed. Initially, the surgeon told me that the cancer was slow growing and non-aggressive, so I thought I could take my time and research my treatment options. The year was already a rough one for us. My husband had broken his back in a fall and was in a body cast, but I felt confident that weÕd caught my breast cancer early. I also knew lots of breast cancer survivors, but I had no idea of the numbers of women affected by this disease or the scope of it.
The second day after my biopsy, the surgeon called again. This time to say they had found a second type of breast cancer in the same biopsy tissue. This was fast growing and very aggressive. We scheduled a bilateral mastectomy for the very next week. I woke up from my mastectomy with severe lymphedema in my arm and the news that my lymph nodes were also positive for breast cancer. Further testing revealed that the cancer had spread to my bones. Statistics showed that if I opted for an 8-month course of aggressive chemotherapy, I still only had a 2% chance of living more than a year.
Like too many women who find out they have breast cancer, within roughly a 2-week time period of my life, I went from a diagnosis of inflammation of the breast, to learning I had stage IV metastatic breast cancer and almost certainly would not live to see my daughters graduate from high school.
That was my life in October 1999. This October I will celebrate 5 years of survivorship!
My message is not that we should ignore the current screening and detection methods for breast cancer. ItÕs just that in my case, they were simply inadequate. I urge women to take a more proactive role in their own health care. If something doesnÕt seem right, it probably isnÕt right. Certainly I credit the medical care I received while fighting my cancer, without it, I would not be here today. My treatment included what was at the time a new chemotherapy treatment. I am currently on a new anti-estrogen medication, and I am also participating in a clinical trial testing a vaccine for metastatic breast cancer. I advocate for money being raised to conduct research for new cancer therapies and better detection methods.
Cancer patients are living longer, fuller lives than ever before. But the medicine is only part of the story. The rest of the story is about the people who step forward to tell me and show me that they cared and that I was loved.