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Guest Blog Post – A Young Mom’s Battle With Breast Cancer

This is a first for Three Times the Giggles – a guest blog post. It’s something I’ve wanted to do, but never really felt like I had any direction or nudging as to who to ask.  Early this month though I thought of just exactly the person – my friend Jennifer. 

Jennifer is in a mom’s group I co-lead and I’m so glad I know her. The way she has handled her battle with breast cancer has left me speechless and inspired. More than that though, it’s because of her that I now am diligent when it comes to self-exams. I’ve only ever know two other women who had breast cancer – my paternal grandmother and an aunt on my dad’s side. Knowing a woman so close to my age, with young children at home, who was diagnosed with breast cancer was such a wake-up call to me. Please ladies, check yourselves monthly! 

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When Helen asked me if I would be willing to do a guest post for her blog I thought of several reasons I should say no, but my heart told me I needed to do this. If I can inspire at least one woman to start doing breast self-exams, get a mammogram, or have “that lump” checked, then it will have been worth it.

We hear about breast cancer all the time and we all probably know someone who has battled it. It is still a shock to hear the words “it is cancer,” especially being only 32 years old. It was the end of April that my world was turned upside down. I had found a lump while breastfeeding my daughter and made an appointment to have it checked. The nurse practitioner who examined me told me that it was “just fibrocystic changes” and nothing to be concerned about. I left the office relieved and eager to pack for our trip to visit my family in Oregon that weekend. During the three weeks we were gone, I kept feeling the lump and had a nagging feeling that something was not right.

Upon returning home the lump felt bigger so I made another call to my doctor. They scheduled me for an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, I was told that the radiologist wanted a mammogram as well. It wasn’t until they called me back so the radiologist could speak with me that I got scared. He told me that the calcifications evident on the mammogram were most likely malignancies and stressed that I needed to have a biopsy right away, because in young women they tended to be very aggressive.

As I left the office with tears streaming down my face, I could only think of my children. My two sweet, beautiful children who needed their Mommy. My son, Finn had just turned 3 in February, and my daughter, Lilly, was 8 months old. I sobbed thinking that although Finn may have some vague memories of me, Lilly would never remember her Mommy. I thought of all of the special times I would not be there for as they grew up – first days of school, learning to ride a bike, soccer & baseball games, dance recitals, and all of the birthdays, Christmases, and other holiday celebrations. I thought of all of the simple, everyday moments that I would miss – packing lunches, walks to the park, good-morning kisses and bedtime stories. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be there to raise my children. I prayed that no matter how difficult my treatments were going to be, that I would be strong, and that I would survive!

During the next nine days, I saw a breast surgeon and had a biopsy that confirmed I had cancer – stage 3 cancer in my right breast and 4 lymph nodes. I saw an oncologist, had a PET scan, blood work, an echocardiogram, a MRI, chemo education, surgery to place my port, and my first chemotherapy treatment. It was a very difficult time, but I have amazing doctors, and they gave me a plan, and with that, hope.

Now it is October and I am getting ready to start radiation treatment in one week. It will last through the middle to end of December. So far I have endured 18 chemotherapy treatments, injections to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, and a bilateral mastectomy and lymph node dissection. Not to mention the loss of my hair, numerous prescription medications that have made it difficult to sleep, echocardiograms, MRIs, a hospital stay due to a fever, getting breast forms, physical therapy, and too many doctor’s visits to count.

However, these past 6 months I have also experienced gymnastics classes, swimming lessons, swimming at our neighborhood pool, playdates with friends, visits from family & friends, walking a 5K three days after having surgery, Lilly’s first birthday party, Finn starting preschool, and a visit to the pumpkin patch. I have received countless cards, letters, emails, phone calls, gifts, meals for our family, and help watching my children when I had appointments. My mother was able to stay with us for the summer to help out which was a huge blessing to us. I feel all of the prayers being said on my behalf working, and am so thankful for them.

I hear many people say that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them. I am not at that point right now, but I do know that even though this summer was not what I had planned, good things have come of this. My faith has been strengthened, and I am trying to trust in God’s plan for me. I have strengthened old friendships, reconnected with people I had lost touch with, and built new friendships as well. My family has been amazing, and I know how truly blessed I am to have them all in my life. Breast Cancer Awareness month has a whole new meaning for me this year. The statistics say that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. I urge you to be diligent about doing self breast-exams, as early detection increases the chance of survival! There is a lot of information on the internet, but one site that I have found to be helpful is http://ww5.komen.org/.

My tumor responded well to the chemotherapy treatment, so my doctors are hopeful about my chance of survival. I know that with cancer there are no guarantees, so there will always be the fear that the cancer will return. On the hard days I try to remember that, at least “I am here!” I hold my children tighter, snuggle longer, read that one more story, and try not to worry about the little things. Because, really, none of us knows, cancer diagnosis or not, what our future holds. The important thing is to make the time we have count.

 

  • October 25, 2011 - 7:41 am

    Aunt Sue - Wow Helen- thank you for asking Jennifer to share with us. Please let her know she will be in my prayers. You and Nick will be especially in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow – Happy Anniversary! love you both (and your four precious munchkins!!) very much!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 7:56 am

    Carrie - Amazing Jennifer! God is so good and faithful. I’m so glad that you are here with us to share your story. I will be praying for you and your family. I will go now and do a self breast exam also. I haven’t ever done one (I’m 36). I also haven’t had an exam done by my dr in over 4 years. No excuse seems right. Always before I’ve said “I’ve been too busy with my boys… so much going on, just not enough time.” I will make the time.
    Thank you for sharing. For opening up to all of us. May God bless you and your family greatly.
    love in Christ,
    CarrieReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 7:57 am

    Susan - Thank you for sharing Jennifer. The reminder of self exams was much needed – thank you. You will be in my thoughts & prayers.ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 10:53 am

    Michelle H - Jennifer, as a fellow cancer survivor I applaud you for being so strong! It’s definitely not an easy journey to go through. I’m over a year out from finishing treatments and I’m still having scans and going to Dr visits all the time.

    Don’t let it define who you are – I always say that I’m just a mom/wife/daughter/person who happened to have cancer! Though it’s hard to see it now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it will be a wonderful day when you can look back at this time in your life and realize what a survivor you are!

    Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    pam - My friend Angela was just diagnosed with breast cancer as well, at age 31. It’s so awful, but inspiring to see the strength of these women.

    Best of luck to you, Jennifer!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 3:41 pm

    Alicenne - so well written and inspiring. best of luck!!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 4:59 pm

    Shelby - Thank you so much for sharing your story. I sat next to you in the dentist office while my son had his teeth cleaned awhile back…it was just a few days after I had visited my 38 year old cousin after her double mastectomy. After seeing fully all that she has had to go through and the toll cancer has taken on her body I wanted to weep for all that you are going through. I was amazed that a young mom who was fighting for her life was still so patient with her children! I pray that you recover fully and that you are able to share your amazing strength with other women who will battle cancer in their lives.ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2011 - 9:17 pm

    Jessica - Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing this! I have breastfed three kids for a year each and I don’t think I would have even been concerned about a lump while breastfeeding so it is great that you share this for anyone out there who might be breastfeeding and thinking like me. The doctor always checks me at annual visits and reminds me to do self exams, but I have to admit that I have not been diligent about that.. I set a reminder on my phone so that I can get into a monthly habit. I will be praying for you!ReplyCancel

  • October 26, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    Sarah - I loved this so much. Thanks for sharing Jennifer. I will be praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • October 27, 2011 - 2:57 pm

    MandyE - Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jennifer, and Helen, for posting it.

    It’s such a great reminder that we have to prioritize ourselves and trust our gut. Thank Heaven you were diligent in following up with your doctor, suspecting something wasn’t quite right. As busy moms, it’s so easy to put aside our own concerns to focus on taking care of our children. Taking care of ourselves is just as important.

    Many blessings to you, and prayers for continued improvement and good health.ReplyCancel

  • October 27, 2011 - 3:12 pm

    Lindsey Freeman - Although I don’t know you very well, I am blessed to be a part of your journey, through BBM. I was the “silly” one that had the “save the hooters’ tattoos made for the 5k this year. I was proud to run on your team. I found an owl pendant to wear during the race…(oddly, I ran my best time ever)…but most importantly, so that I could tell you that You may not have run that race…but your Hooters did! You’ll be happy to know your hooters will be running this Saturday at the Monster dash as well. Ya, I thought you would giggle! You are a hero to so many Jennifer! My hope is your kids will know, and embrace, and continue to be inspired by your strength, determination, and faith. I will continue to pray for you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • October 27, 2011 - 7:25 pm

    Christy Swan - Jennifer~
    I have a dear, dear friend who just finished her round of breast cancer. She had it in her right breast, stage 2 and close to stage 3. She was also HERS 2+ (not sure if that is the right spelling) and had to receive herceptin on top of her chemo treatments. She finished herceptin in July and had one year anniversary of when it all began. Her kids were in my class and watching them go through it all killed me. I will say this, she was like you, always a mom! She never took a narcotic because she wanted to be coherent when her kids came home from school. You two inspire me at 30 to get my baseline mamogram which is getting scheduled Monday. Life is short and as mothers, we no longer have wishes for ourselves, but wishes for our children. Your strength is incredible. Thanks for sharing. May God bless you with the years to see your children marry, the birth of your grandchildren, and many more milestones.ReplyCancel

  • October 28, 2011 - 6:48 pm

    Kelli Faulkner - Your story is amazing and I feel so connected to you as a young mother of three. I too have a life saving story that I believe everyone should check themselves for and keep awareness of, pancreatitis. I had three masses in my pancreas three years ago: (I wrote a book about it along with everything else that transpired through it. God definitely throws some big curve balls to make you stronger doesnt He?)
    It was April 13, 2009. I was less than two weeks away from my big surgery date and was scheduled to meet with the surgeon so we could go over the fun times I had recently been through at the university hospital. As I waited patiently for the doctor to come into the room, I prepared myself for the mouth full that I was about to give him concerning the doctors down there. I was still livid over the treatment and service I got. I could hear my file being pulled from outside the door when the surgeon began his walk in. He sat down with a less serious look on his face. He asked me how I had been feeling, but in that same breath he began talking about the results he was looking at. I tried to make my way through his medical language to a word that I recognized. There it was! Sphincter was spoken, and I knew what he was talking about. My face lit up with excitement because I was going to talk about my fun word I had learned. As he continued talking about how they put a temporary stint in there to help keep it open, magical words that I had not heard before came from his lips.
    “It shows here that two of your masses have disappeared, and the other one has shrunk down to half its size,” he explained. I don’t think my brain comprehended what he just said because I was too busy picking my jaw up from the ground.ReplyCancel

  • October 31, 2011 - 12:21 am

    Christina - wow our story is the same in many ways I am only 24 and was diagnosed in July 2011. Had a double mastectomy on aug31 and just started chemo on the 18th. These past 3 months have seemed like a life time already. My daughter just turned 6 and I had all the same thoughts you had about your kids and now im worried I wont be able to have anymore kids :( I wish you the best during the rest of your treatments and stay as positive as you are right now.ReplyCancel

  • November 2, 2011 - 8:26 pm

    Holding On | Three Times the Giggles - [...] it was Jennifer’s guest post last week that did it to me. Or maybe it was the fact that I’ve become increasingly aware of [...]ReplyCancel

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