Whitefish Bay, WI
Police Dispatcher, EMT-I
My Reason For Participating:
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30 – yes I was only 30 years old! Breast cancer survivors come in all shapes, sizes and ages. This is the second time I’ve participated as a Rare Chair Affair Survivor Artist. The first time was after my son Michael was born. Being involved in several breast cancer organizations and events allows me to share my story and help others.”
It all started in November 1998. I had a pain in my right breast and when I touched it I discovered a lump the size of a grape. I went to my doctor and after a few weeks and a few tests; I was diagnosed with breast cancer, two days before my 31st birthday. I was also newly divorced.
Five days later I found myself discussing treatment options with my doctor and my surgeon (who I met that morning). We decided on lumpectomy first. We would then wait to see if any addition surgery would be necessary. Looking back on it now, it seems like a “foggy” dream. I can see myself searching my brain for details.
I became my parents “roommate” for three weeks. I took the time off of work to recuperate because I owned a stick shift car and couldn’t drive. Needless to say, in addition to having new “roommates” I also had an escort service to drive me around. Christmas and New Years came and went, doctor’s appointments came and went. Surgeons, oncologists, radiologists…the next year of my life was being filled with appointments and treatment.
For the next four months my life would consist of my “recipe” of chemotherapy, one treatment every three weeks for eight hours.
I remember the first time my hair started to fall out – I was on vacation. My first wig looked just like my regular hairstyle, but no one really cared what I had on top of my head. So I bought many different brightly colored wigs. I figured if I was going to wear a wig, I might as well have some fun. Everyone I knew was very supportive, they didn’t treat me “different.” People even asked to wear my wig to Halloween parties.
Radiation treatments followed the chemotherapy. It was seven weeks, Monday through Friday with weekends off. So I set it up so I could go before work everyday.
I am not the only person in my family to have experienced cancer. My sister, at the young age of 26, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s while she was 8 months pregnant. (Her daughter is now 13 years old.) My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I was. My dad was diagnosed with prostate and bone cancer 3 years ago and is still getting treatments. My mom was diagnosed 2 years ago with ovarian cancer; luckily they caught it in the early stages!
We do have a lucky one in our family – my twin sister. She has three beautiful children, is healthy and happy and has seen us through this, one at a time. We joke sometimes and say that her life is so busy that she couldn’t fit being sick into her schedule.
As of June 25, 2004 I am five years a survivor of this “inconvenience” in my life. I’ve got a lot more years to live. Believe it or not, I got a lot out of having breast cancer.
Breast cancer can happen to anyone;
I love to organize my annual ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer team the “Wigged Out Walkers”;
I have amazing family and friends;
I can have a happy marriage, I have been married to Tim 3 for years;
There is such a thing as having children after chemo, my son Michael turned two in July;
The true meaning of the color pink;
There are experiences and memories in life I would never have had if I hadn’t had breast cancer. I have been in fashion shows, acted as a mentor for ABCD, painted for the WBCC’s Rare Chair Affair, participated in charity walks, and I have met many wonderful people and made many new friends.
I am PROUD to be a survivor.
One of my friends told me once that we are all here for a reason. If you think you can alter that reason by taking a different direction in life, you are wrong. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to be a part of everything that has happened to me. I guess I’m on the right path.