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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

Cancer Don’t Care

By Michelle Sandlin



In June of 2021, I was in the best shape of my life, or so I thought. I wasn’t overweight. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t do drugs. I was working out like a maniac, six days a week. I looked great. I felt great. But guess what? None of that mattered because cancer don’t care. That’s when I found a lump in my right breast.


I was in utter shock and disbelief. It didn’t make any sense. As far as I knew, my risk factors for developing breast cancer were very low. My mom didn’t have breast cancer. My grandmothers didn’t have breast cancer. It seemed so random, and completely unexpected. But I was familiar with the statistic: one in eight women. Now I was the one.


The day I was diagnosed, I was forced to learn many new words and terms. The first being invasive ductal carcinoma. The second being triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). And then a few weeks later, a third one was added to the mix. It was BRCA1 gene mutation. Yep, I had that too.


Those were the three things that pretty much dictated my treatment strategy. It looked like this: 16 rounds of chemo over the course of 5 ½ months, followed by a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, and finally the preemptive removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes.


That was the medical strategy. 


I also implemented and enforced a personal strategy, which proved to be critical and highly effective for my emotional wellbeing. It looked like this: maintain a positive attitude; keep toxic people and negative thoughts at bay; work out as much as possible; listen to my body; lean on my family, friends, and faith; stay in the moment, then let it go; use meditation to combat anxiety; no tears; no Google; no downward spiral. The idea was to develop a philosophy around controlling what I could control during this out-of-control time.


And I documented every moment along the way, sharing personal messages, photos, and videos on social media. This helped tremendously with the crippling feelings of isolation that I experienced throughout my treatment. It also let people keep up with me and my progress and be able to see for themselves how I was doing. I wanted to be able to share the raw, emotional, candid moments. I wanted to share my message of love, hope, encouragement, motivation, inspiration, and the importance of community. I hoped others would be able to benefit from my experience.


Then on Valentine’s Day 2022, I received the best news possible. That’s when my breast surgeon told me I was cancer-free! CANCER-FREE! This was just a few days after my double mastectomy. She introduced me to yet another new term: pathological complete response, meaning that there was no residual invasive cancer in the tissue that was removed during surgery.


My prayers had been answered.


In the months that followed, I realized I needed to process everything that had happened. There was no time to do that when I was first diagnosed, and certainly no time to do that when I was in the throes of treatment, surgery, healing, and recovery.


So now that I was on the other side, it was time to process


That’s when I decided to write a book. To share my thoughts, feelings, and insights about my breast cancer experience. Everything I had been through—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and what it’s like to be on the other side. To lift the veil and share the most intimate, personal details. To share the many life lessons that were woven into my journey. To share my perspective about life after cancer. And ultimately, to help and inspire others, and give them hope, regardless of the battle they may be fighting or the struggles they may be facing. To shine the light on the road to healing and inner peace. My hope is that others will benefit from my story.



About the Author: Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer and bestselling author. She spent the better part of the past decade as a freelance writer and columnist. During that time, she wrote a weekly column for the Houston Chronicle, which ran from 2013 through 2020. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Michelle currently lives in Houston with her husband, Kenny, and their English Bulldogs, Max and Stella. She published a book about her breast cancer experience, Cancer Don’t Care, in January 2024. For more information about Michelle, please visit her website: www.MichelleSandlin.com.



Read More:







On the Podcast: Breast Cancer Conversations

Good News for Triple Negative Breast Cancer: A Vaccine and Hope for the Future






 


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