My road to a cancer diagnosis was probably the most confusing and scary of my life. I discovered a lump in my right breast and didn’t know how what to do. Obviously, I needed a mammogram, but I did not have a gynecologist and believe it or not, I did not know I could have gone to my GP. This was my first delay in getting a diagnosis. Once I found a doctor, I had to wait more than 2 weeks to get in to see her since I was a new patient. I was immediately sent for a mammogram and told that I was going to need a breast surgeon. At my mammogram appointment they did the initial mammogram followed by more images, followed by an ultrasound. While I was still laying on the ultrasound table there was a knock on the door and a doctor walked in, sat down, and took my hand. She told me right then and there without a biopsy that my lump was cancer and that I also had a lump in my left breast that was also cancer. As I lay there, tears started to trickle out of the corner of my eyes, the doctor was still talking, something about great strides being made in breast cancer research. I really didn’t hear all that she was saying because my mind was numb. Delay #3, I was on blood thinners and so I had to wait 10 days to have my biopsies. Finally, I was able to have my biopsy and waited for the results to come in.

As anyone who is waiting for a biopsy result knows the wait is long and hard. The days passed with no phone call, so I finally called the gynecologist’s office, and they told me that I must come in to get the results. I made an appointment (Delay #4) 5 days later and met with a doctor that I have never seen. He walks in the room with my biopsy results only to tell me that he has no idea how to read this biopsy! I asked him why I was even at this appointment, and he told me he didn’t know and walked me to the front desk for a refund since they had already taken my money. To say I was in shock is an understatement. I left that appointment with my biopsy results in my hand, at least I had that. The breast surgeon I was referred to was in the same building so I went directly to her office to get an appointment and to find someone who could tell me what my biopsy results said. She was not in the office, I was told I would have to make an appointment and you know it, I was going to have to wait another 2 weeks! (Delay #5) I was told I would have to wait to see the doctor to have my biopsy results read to me. I made the appointment and went home.

That day I earned my doctorate in biopsy reading from “Dr.” Google. I learned that I did indeed have cancer in both my breasts, I learned that I had two different types of cancer, triple nega7ve in my left breast and hormone positive in my right breast and it looked like the cancer in my right breast had spread to my lymph nodes. With all this “Dr.” Google information I had to wait 2 more weeks. The day I met with the surgeon was awful. For whatever reason I had to wait in the waiting room for almost 2 hours to be seen, which just added to my anxiety. The first thing the doctor says when she walks in is “you got a lot going on here” I was then told that to start any treatment I would need to see a medical oncologist. WHAT?!!! Delay #6 I now had to call and get an appointment with a different doctor, and you know it, I couldn’t get in to see him right away. I had to wait another week! I finally got my medical oncologist appointment and this doctor also walks in and says “you got a lot going on here” I looked at him and asked why do people keep saying that? I was told not only did I have cancer in both breasts which had spread to my lymph nodes, but I also had inflammatory breast cancer on my right breast as well. The doctor was also suspicious that the cancer had already spread to my lungs. I thought I would start treatment immediately, but the doctor wanted to have a few more tests done before I could begin treatment. Nobody seemed to be in a rush but me. When I left that appointment I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, all I could do was cry, lay in bed, wander aimlessly around the house. Buried in my cancer plan was my prognosis, MONTHS to years. How was I going to tell my kids and my grandchildren that. I was only 58. I wasn’t even going to make it to 60! I couldn’t believe it, death in our 50’s seemed to be our family curse, but up until this point it was the men that died, and they died from heart attacks not cancer. I wasn’t going to be alive to meet my newest grandchild that was due in the fall. I wasn’t going to be alive to go to my daughter’s wedding on October 29th, 2022. I was lost and feeling hopeless.

Over the next 2 weeks boxes started arriving on my doorstep almost every day from friends. Friends were calling and praying with me. My neighbor came over and prayed with me in my front yard. I had a whole 1st grade Sunday school class in Longview, Texas praying for me. So much support was coming my way from a village that I had no idea was so large. One afternoon my husband and I were driving down our street, probably heading to another doctor’s appointment. When I suddenly felt what I can only describe as an invisible hug. In that moment I felt surrounded by love, it was the most amazing feeling I had ever felt. I realized that I was blessed in so many ways and that I could not fight this monster from the place I was currently in. My attitude from hopeless despair to amazingly blessed change from that moment on, I was going to count my blessings every day. I chose to fight with a smile and with the same humor that I had lived my life with, I was going to spread joy to everyone I met. This attitude made it so much easier to go forward.

I started chemotherapy at the end of March, I lost my hair on my terms by cutting it very short prior to it falling out. I faced my lung biopsy with a smile knowing that I was in God’s hands and had been my whole life. A friend sent me a box of wigs and I had fun with being bald. I had about 10 wigs I wore on a regular basis, and they all had names. I would try on a wig and then do a group text for a name. I owned my cancer; I owned being bald and I owned my stage 4 diagnosis. I finished my chemo, I had a lumpectomy, my hair started to grow back, I went to my daughter’s wedding, I had radiation, and I greeted my newest granddaughter.

Currently, my cancer is under control. I am not cancer free and according to my doctor I never will be. The hope is to keep my cancer from growing and spreading. I have a scan coming up soon and hopefully it will be okay and life will go on. Right before I had my surgery my sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Hers was caught much earlier than mine. She had a double mastectomy and has needed no further treatment. She found ThriveWell Cancer Foundation first and told me about them. I joined soon after her. I enjoy their Artful Healing classes and attend classes almost every month. ThriveWell is an amazing organization that helps cancer patients in so many ways. As long as I am able, I intend to volunteer where I can, and give back to this organization that gives so much to so many.