Meet Stacy B.
Diagnosed at 46
I remember the day that I was diagnosed as if it was yesterday. As a middle school teacher, I was down to my last day of my precious summer vacation, and had a long list of last-minute errands I wanted to complete that day before starting a new school year. Going to the doctor was an annoying inconvenience in my already busy day.
My primary care doctor mainly wanted to go over a recent ultrasound that he has asked me to have of my right breast after my recent mammogram came back abnormal. My doctor had said he was pretty sure it wasn’t anything to worry about, but since my mammogram did show something slightly suspicious, he wanted me to have the ultrasound scan just to be safe.
At age 46, I have always been extremely healthy.
Ate well, exercised ...and didn’t give it a second thought. In fact, I had decided to go to the visit alone since I wasn’t the least bit worried. That’s the day (August 11, 2017), that life as I knew it would change…..
During that visit, I found out that I had not one, but three highly suspicious spots in different quadrants of my right breast. I was in shock and just couldn’t believe what my doctor was saying to me. I told him that I would go for the biopsy, but I’m sure it was nothing.
He then said:
“Stacy, I’m not going to lie to you, but those spots have a BI-RADS score of a 5, which means that those spots were highly likely to be malignant. You will need to go for a biopsy today to confirm this diagnosis, but brace yourself, and be prepared for many upcoming appointments and major surgery.”
I would not be able to have a lumpectomy like many other women because the spots were in different areas of the breast. I would also need an MRI to see if the cancer had spread.
He then gave me a valuable piece of advice that I never forgot through the struggle that I was about to endure. He said... “I know this will be hard, but I want you to try to live your life in a regular way (as best that you can) as you fight this battle. It will be hard, but don’t let it become all-consuming. Keep working every day and doing your thing….meet up with friends, spend time with family, go on trips, no matter how hard that may seem.”
“I know this will be hard, but I want you to try to live your life in a regular way (as best that you can) as you fight this battle. It will be hard, but don’t let it become all-consuming. Keep working every day and doing your thing….meet up with friends, spend time with family, go on trips, no matter how hard that may seem.”
After my biopsy, it was confirmed that I had invasive ductal carcinoma. All that I could think is, Please let me live so that I can see my 2 kids (although they are young adults) graduate college, get married, have kids, and accomplish their dreams.
So, now here I am writing this 15 months later, and life is good! I have had three surgeries this past year. After being put on Tamoxifen, which is suppose to help keep my hormone-positive cancer at bay, I had too many side effects and am now on a different medication called Anastrozole and I’m feeling so much better! I still go to frequent follow-up appointments with my oncologist and plastic surgeon every three months, and I even got a tattoo that says, “Seize the day” as a personal reminder to live my best life! I know that I am one of the really lucky ones.
When I had my mastectomy, I was told that it was early stage 1, hormone positive cancer, and that it had not spread to my lymph nodes. I also found out that I was BRCA negative. More great news followed from my oncologist that I would not need to have chemotherapy...those words were music to my ears! They say that you are only as strong as those that you surround yourself with, and I truly had an amazing team of doctors, an amazing husband, a supportive family and friends that were there every step of the way.
As I fought breast cancer, I chose to share my story (as uncomfortable and private as it was) with all my friends and family on Facebook. I persuaded them to be proactive about getting those mammograms on a regular basis (especially my teacher friends that tend to overlook self-care because they are too busy!)
I shared with them that I had never had a lump or any type of sign that I had breast cancer, and had I not had that mammogram when I did, the cancer might have spread and I would have needed chemo. Many of my friends sent me private messages telling me that because of me they went and had that dreaded mammogram.
It was that defining moment that I realized that when I felt up to it, I wanted to help others that were going through breast cancer! Sharing my story on social media helped me to not only heal, but may have helped others in the process.
To anyone reading this that is going through breast cancer, just know that it is okay to have days when you feel depressed and worry if you will survive. Allow yourself to have those brief moments, but then brush yourself off, keep doing your thing, and be the fierce survivor that you are.
Then, when you are done fighting the fight, and the sunshine comes through the clouds again, go out there and do something worthwhile with all that you have learned during your journey and help others who are currently fighting breast cancer….after all, isn’t that really what life is about anyway?