Breast Cancer Survivor Story: Teresa
It's sad and unfortunate that everyone knows someone who has battled breast cancer. Third in our Loren's World Breast Cancer Survivor Series is Teresa, whom I interviewed after I found out about her incredible story via mutual acquaintances. After undergoing a double mastectomy to become cancer-free, Teresa is a profound example of a woman willing to take control of her own health.
Breast Cancer Survivor Story: Teresa
Danny & I…the day after diagnosis
I am 53 years old, work as an accountant for a general contracting company, and live on a 14 acre farm. I love being at home with my husband, Danny, and all of our animals. I have a 27 year old son that lives about 15 miles from us. I have always maintained an active life style, and do my best to watch after my health.
1. How was your cancer discovered and diagnosed? I have always had annual mammograms and have had a few scares in the past. In 2009, I had one of these scares. I found a lump, and I immediately went to my doctor, and was told that she thought it was a cyst. She sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound, and the radiologist, too, called it a cyst. In 2010 I changed doctors, and my new doctor told me that, while it appeared to be a cyst, I always had the option to have it removed should it start bothering me. 2010 and 2011 mammograms were read as benign. In May of 2012, the cyst began to bother me, and I told my doctor that I thought it might be time to have it removed. She referred me to a breast surgeon who did a biopsy. One week later, I found out I had hormone responsive invasive lobular breast cancer.
2. What was life like during your treatment? I was scared and anxious at first. The fear of the unknown is a most powerful fear. The month between my diagnosis and my surgery was full of ups and downs. I would leave the present and dive into my version of the ridiculous future.
In many ways, I consider myself very lucky. I went to UNC Breast Center, and had a great surgeon. He recommended that I have my left breast removed and said that they saw two suspicious places in the right breast and suggested two more biopsies. I chose to have a double mastectomy. Pathology confirmed the cancer in the left breast and two different types of precancerous cells in the right breast. My lymph nodes were clear! They determined that I wouldn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. I am currently taking Tamoxifen and will be on it for 5 years, as my cancer was double hormone responsive.
The recovery from my surgery went very well, and the further I get from that time, the less vivid it has become. Sort of like having a baby!
3. Were you able to stay positive during the tough moments? How did your mindset effect your treatment and recovery? Yes, for the most part, I remained very positive. Breast cancer has a very high survival rate, and I had to remind myself of this frequently. Attitude is everything, and I kept my sense of humor through the whole process. I made a point to surround myself with positive people, and spent lots of time with my family. I got up and moving as quickly as I could.
4. How have things changed since you were cleared of cancer? I am more mindful of gratitude every day. I don’t take things as seriously. I continue to do things that are healthy and positive. While I suffered a loss, I am now cancer free. I went through a very short lived grieving process. I am currently 13 weeks post-op and feel almost 100% healed. Now that the cancer is behind me, I am trying to decide if I want to go through the reconstruction process.
5. What message do you hope to give others battling breast cancer? You will be amazed to find that some people will avoid you as if you were contagious. These people are fearful. Forgive them. Yet, you’ll also be amazed at those who will embrace you. Some will be total strangers. Breast cancer has a statistically positive cure rate. Don’t forget that. I cannot speak about chemo or radiation, only mastectomy, but every day gets easier. Be kind to yourself and others. Rest when you need it. Do not forget your sense of humor. Laughter is, indeed, good medicine.