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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

I’d Rather Be Me

By Mandy Richardson


My diagnosis came as a shock, as I think it does for many people. I was still young. I was actively breastfeeding. And I was relatively healthy. I remember, a couple of times, being told by someone that they wished they could take the cancer for me. As moving as that sentiment was, I didn’t wish that. 





1. I wouldn’t wish a cancer diagnosis or treatment on my worst enemy.


2. I knew I was in what you could probably call the best position to fight and beat it. 


I had my “youth” and “health” going for me. And I think you could see that in how my body handled the chemo. I was tired. Very tired. But I didn’t get physically sick, or have the joint pain that so often goes along with Adriamycin/Cytoxan (AC) chemo. But I also knew a little bit about fighting, and advocating for myself. 


My self-advocacy started before my cancer diagnosis, when I was facing fertility challenges. When I couldn’t sustain a pregnancy, after two years, I asked to see a fertility specialist. At first, I was denied by my current OBGYN. While I was told the rule of thumb was to see a specialist if I couldn’t get pregnant within a year, I was simultaneously told that didn’t apply to me because I COULD get pregnant, I just couldn’t sustain it. I called the office and told the receptionist to never schedule me with that doctor again, then requested an appointment with the office’s physician that usually handled infertility cases. He agreed to see me.


Not long after that, after yet another miscarriage, I was with yet another doctor and asked about any connection between thyroid disorders and miscarriages. I was told that’s not likely. I hadn’t had my thyroid checked since before getting pregnant with my oldest, but I knew I had a family history of thyroid problems. I told him I had good insurance, and I wanted my bloodwork done. 


Sure enough, my thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels came back incredibly high. I started seeing a specialist at an actual infertility clinic, and my reproductive endocrinologist started me on medications for the first time ever to treat hypothyroidism. That story had a happy ending, and we welcomed our little rainbow baby in October 2020.


Advocating for yourself is a lot like giving yourself grace. So often, we’re asked, would you talk to a friend going through something similar the same way you talked to yourself? It may, at times, be easy to see that a friend or relative needs to push for a second opinion, yet when it comes to ourselves, there are at least a dozen reasons we might tell ourselves not to. We’re too busy; we don’t have time for that. We trust our original doctors at their word. So-and-so had the “same thing” and was just fine. Sometimes we really just don’t want to know. Deep down, we know there’s a journey ahead and we’d rather stay off that road. But if a second opinion is only an “opinion,” that means that’s all the first was as well. Don’t accept an opinion. Make them give you the facts. And if they can’t, then they need to get them.


This experience came into play later on during my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more on this part of my story, check out my previous blog post: Breast Cancer at 33: A Young Mom’s Story of Self-Advocacy.


I wouldn’t, in a million years, wish that someone else would go through my experience for me. It was a hard road, and certainly not one I ever want to travel again. But I fought, and I won, and I learned so much about my own strength and resilience in the process. While I would often joke that “my body hates me” or “my body tried to kill me,” it’s also gotten me through all of that stuff. I’d still rather be me.





Check out Mandy’s other blog posts:






Read More:








On the Podcast: Breast Cancer Conversations

Young and Diagnosed: A Journey to Motherhood & Parenting

with Triple Positive Breast Cancer




 


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