I met Mary on Instagram (there seems to be a reoccurring theme here… such a wonderful community of cancer fighters on Instagram!!). Mary is a strong wonderful woman, enjoying life with her husband & two chocolate Labradors, in Connecticut. I’m proud to share her story with you today.
During a routine mammogram at age 51, the technician noticed some calcifications that they wanted to investigate further. Mary had a needle biopsy & several days later Mary received a call from her OB, who had diagnosed her with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).
Having lost her own mother to metastatic breast cancer in 1999 & both of her mother’s sisters having battled breast cancer as well, Mary knew fully the havoc that breast cancer can wreak… She was upset & thought of losing her mother, she didn’t want her own son, who is now 22, to be in the same situation. She tried to lessen the impact to her son, by explaining that it was not invasive, it had not spread & that she would have bilateral mastectomy & that would be the end of her treatment. But that wasn’t exactly the case.
Following the mastectomy, she learned that the cancer was invasive in the right breast & in the sentinel lymph node. Mary’s treatment now required chemotherapy & radiation, she was devastated. Her husband cried, her sister cried & her son cried. Even Mary’s first husband, her son’s father called her crying. Everyone was scared, including Mary.
She didn’t want her son to worry, so she tried to keep things as normal as possible through treatment. Mary went to the & worked out when she could, she attended her regular yoga class, she walked her dogs & went to work every day. She felt the less she allowed the disease to affect her daily life, the more control she had over it. It was that feeling that got her through treatment & continues to make her stronger.
As Mary continued through her normal routines as much as possible, she says the treatments, especially chemo, can completely take over your life. She was constantly aware f the havoc it was causing in her body. She worried about germs from other causing infections her body wouldn’t be able to fight in its depleted state. She had to worry about keeping her own body fluids from coming into contact with her loved ones & affecting them. She carried sanitizer, using it constantly & opened doors with paper towels. She didn’t want anything to interfere with getting those treatments over with.
Mary’s husband has been her fearless companion through all of it. He did whatever needed to be done at home & came to nearly every appointment & chemo treatment. Her sister came to stay with them following her initial surgery when her husband had to return to work. Mary also found great comfort in her two dogs. They obviously have no idea about her illness, but sense when she’s down or not feeling well. They’re always right there beside her & always happy to see her.
Mary completed chemo in May & radiation in July of last year. She’s been following with Herceptin which she proudly completed this February. She had reconstruction in November (cohesive gel implants), however the radiated breast would not heal & in January of this year, she had the implant removed. Her plastic surgeon wants to allow a bit more time to heal & then they’ll discuss further reconstruction.
Mary says that cancer has robbed her of many things… her self-esteem, confidence in her body & her peace of mind. However, it has also provided several gifts. She’s more grateful for the small things in life. She’s far more patient & doesn’t spend time sweating the little things. She finds a sense of joy in going through each day & knowing that nothing is guaranteed & nothing should be taken for granted. She is kinder to others, aware now that we never know the trials that someone else may be facing. She is less timid & wants to enjoy a life filled with love, happiness & kindness for however long that may be.
Mary believes it’s essential to remember the important things in life through cancer. It’s a disease & we’ve got to fight it the best we can. Keep going, keep doing things we love & don’t ever let it stop us from being who we are. Let it make us better in the future. It’s a hard lesson, but learn from it & keep moving on with positivity & grace. Don’t let it have a negative effect on your life.