Meet Mary

Meet Mary

Diagnosed at 45, Stage 1

I found out wonderful things about myself. I found that I am stronger than most people I know. I really had to be. I wasn’t going to crawl into a hole and give up. I had no other choice; I have a family and a daughter. My little girl will grow up to be a stronger, better woman than I am. I found out I am not a quitter!

I got a whole new look. I really wasn't that freaked out about the hair loss. I've never really had long hair as an adult, so I thought I could live with it. When would I ever really be bald again?? I covered up for almost 3 months with cute turban style hats. But I grew tired of that. They were hot and annoyed my head from the pressure of wearing them all day. Friends and co-workers told me that no one cared about my baldness but me. That was so true. I am a teacher so I worried about the reaction of the students. They couldn't care less.

I realized that I can help others through my strength. It can be contagious. Maybe a role model, a guide, an inspiration. Whatever you want to call it. Perhaps I can show the world the way we should all live. I learned to fight for what you want. Don't give up or give in.

I gained a whole new me. I was never a miserable person. Moody I guess. Happy, yeah pretty much. But my sister noticed that after I was over the biggest hurdles of my treatments I seemed really happy. It didn't occur to me until she mentioned it. But as I thought about what she said, I did feel truly happier than I had ever been before in my life. This diagnosis made me truly realize I was taking life for granted. I was blessed to have all the things I did. Now I was going to appreciate every little piece of life that was offered to me!

Later after my hair started to grow back, a student asked when I'd lose my hair. He hadn't even noticed that I was bald and the hair was growing back! For my bald debut, I dressed as Charlie Brown for Halloween. I took my classroom's school pictures that year with my bald head. Often, I would forget that I was bald and be shocked when I'd see myself in the mirror. I learned not to care about my bald head. As my hair grew back and was really short, I loved it. Others loved it. I had never gotten so many compliments. I am going to embrace and keep this new short hair look.

I discovered that I underwent more than a transformation. I became so much more than I ever could have imagined after those disastrous months. But what else am I? Am I a cancer survivor or fighter? Ha! I evolved into a WARRIOR!

This entire journey has been surreal. Sometimes this has felt like a dream; it really didn’t happen to me. I am no one special. Just an ordinary person living an ordinary life. Went to school, got a job, met a man, got married, had a baby. The common story of life. I was one of those people who thought, “Nothing really bad is going to happen to me. My life is routine.” Well my enemy didn’t care about ordinary or extraordinary. It just attacked.

Fighter. You have no choice while battling cancer. If you don’t fight, then all is lost. That was not going to happen to me. I never thought twice about fighting. I just did it. It was imperative for my family and myself. I faced 12 weeks of chemo which was followed by 4 weeks of radiation. During my radiation, I worked everyday then on the way home went for treatment.

On some evenings after work and radiation, I took my daughter to her art classes, Girl Scout meetings, and book club. No defeats there. 12 months of Herceptin treatments which I endured. I walked out on the last treatment feeling like winning gladiator. I conquered all the struggles this enemy put me through.

But this warrior’s work is not finished and may never be. After surgeries, treatments, quarterly and biannual check ups, I still have a mental tug-of-war. For the following five years my armor is Tamoxifen to keep the enemy at bay. I have survived treatments; my enemy was fought. But the match won’t be called for another 5 years . Yet, even then this warrior’s enemy will always be feared of making a return. As a result, I must keep training. I am strong as hell and have gained too much.