The Best is Yet to Come

Monday, August 11, 2014

It began when I discovered a lump. I had found lumps before, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. This time, it was different…

2011 was a year of upheaval and settling. Moving from Colorado to London with three “almost-grown” children was a challenge that we accepted and mastered. My children settled into school and I found a job relatively soon. We were certain we had found our new rhythm.

The lump appeared in January of 2012. I was relieved when it was initially diagnosed benign. I had dodged yet another bullet….or so I thought. New worry surfaced in May when the lump changed and grew in size. More tests were necessary. How I dreaded the sedation that would help me to overcome my claustrophobia! Following the testing, a biopsy was scheduled to determine whether the mass - now clearly present - contained cancerous cells.

Time passed slowly as I waited for the outcome. “Ten days,” they had promised. “Two weeks at most”. After two and a half weeks, I began to believe the little voice in my head that wreaked havoc with my nerves. WHY WAS IT TAKING SO LONG? What did they know? Why wasn’t anyone contacting me? I decided that I would contact my family physician. She didn’t have the results, but assured me that the office would call the lab right away and she would try her best to get my results before the weekend.

Looking back, I realize my thoughts were my own worst enemy. The anxiety of waiting for a diagnosis can be excruciating. It’s important to try to master the stories that you tell yourself. It would have been helpful to better understand the process, so I knew when and how I would receive the results. Others may find it helpful to speak with a counselor during this time.

It was after five o’clock that same day when the phone rang. It was my doctor. She asked me whether I was alone (yes, I had just walked into my bedroom), and if I was sitting down (no, I’m fine standing). “Please sit down,” her voice compelled. The tests had found cancer in the tissue. It was Mammary Carcinoma.

I was overwhelmed by the thoughts of my own mortality. I was worried about my future, worried about my kids, and angry at God. My fear and anger was quickly replaced with determination to dance at my kids’ weddings and hold my future grandchildren in my arms. There was no choice but to get through this and live a “the best is yet to come” life.

From October 2012 through March 2013, I received eight rounds of chemotherapy. Following a short break to regain my strength, I had surgery in early May. The bilateral mastectomy/reconstruction surgery was successful - at first – but complications within 24 hours meant my right breast was unable to be reconstructed.

Recovery was challenging due to Seromas (fluid in the tissue) and healing delays. Still, I forged ahead through five weeks of daily radiation therapy. My last day of treatment was cause for celebration and I consider myself disease free as of July 31, 2013. In January of this year, I returned to work full time and began to enjoy a “normal” routine.

The journey has not been direct or expected, yet I feel confident that when I step off this path I will be free to explore all the opportunities life has to offer. Yes, the best is yet to come!

Watch Brenda’s video and hear what advice she would like to pass on to others who have been diagnosed with cancer.

During the month of August, the South West Regional Cancer Program will introduce you to four brave individuals who were diagnosed with cancer. Through words and video, they will share their personal stories of strength, struggle and survival with you. Stay tuned to southwestcancer.ca each week for a new survivor story, or follow us on twitter @sw_cancer.

Meet our other survivors: