Mindy’s Breast Cancer Journey
Posted September 25, 2018
On March 7, 2007, Mindy was expecting the week to consist of her 48th birthday celebrations. Instead, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We asked Mindy to share her experience with us on our blog in hopes that someone would hear her story and relate to it. Here is her story:
I was always lumpy, so when I discovered a lump in December of 2006, I just watched it as I would be having my annual exam and mammogram in March. It did not seem to grow, so even though I was concerned, I was not panicked.
I was having my mammogram and then they did a sonogram. When the radiologist was taking so many pictures I knew something was wrong. I was by myself for the appointment. I said to her, “You are taking way too many pictures. There is something wrong, isn’t there?” She said, “I am so sorry, I looked at your films from last year and there was nothing there. But yes, you have breast cancer.” I said, “It’s not your fault, we will deal with it.” She then said to get dressed and that she would call and make appointments for me with a surgeon and have more testing done.
After that, it is a blur. My son was 13 and my dad was 83 and they were the two people that I cared for the most. How could I tell them this news? I called my ex-husband and told him and then when I got home, I told my son. He was good with it because I told him that breast cancer might kill me, but it will not kill me tomorrow. My motto was and still is, ‘If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I am truly blessed.’ It was not a death sentence, but I was scared.
My motto was and still is, ‘If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I am truly blessed.’
After being diagnosed during my mammogram, and after countless biopsies and scans, I had a double mastectomy, chemo for 24 weeks, and 26 radiation treatments. My reconstruction did not happen for 18 months after my initial surgery. I believe the cancer was so close to my chest wall that they did not want to do the reconstruction until they knew it was gone. That time was a little hard for me, but I am glad I waited to make sure it was gone too.
Sometimes it’s hard to have a positive outlook when you’re going through this journey, but it is my belief that I was chosen by God to go through it. I have learned so much about myself through this. I never thought I was this strong of a person, but I got through it and am an 11-year survivor. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I usually say, “I could get hit by a beer truck,” so if cancer comes back, I will deal with that then. You can’t worry about something that isn’t there. Sometimes it is hard when you have friends that you have made over the years who have reoccurrences and some die. It makes me angry at the disease, not at God.
There are so many ways to help people battling cancer besides donating to cancer charities. Be a good friend to those around you who are battling the disease. Don’t tell someone that, “If you need something, just ask,” because you are so overwhelmed you would never ask, at least I wouldn’t. Just do something for your friend. A meal, an invitation to lunch, or put them in touch with someone who knows what they are going through. I have mentored so many women in the last 11 years that I have never met face to face. Just a phone call to answer questions, cry with them, pray with them. The Reach to Recovery program with the American Cancer Society was my first contact with someone who was diagnosed with the same thing I had. Her name was Denise and she was so wonderful and helpful. I suggest everyone find that person who can tell you the reality of it.
My best advice for anyone who’s been recently diagnosed is to take their time making their decisions! There is more time than you think and you’ll thank yourself later for taking your time making these choices. Don’t worry about chemo before you have surgery. Take one thing at a time. While the internet is a wealth of information, don’t use it instead of a person. Find the right doctor for you, and find out all your options before you have anything done. Make sure you do what YOU want, not what everyone else thinks you should do. You are the one that has to live with your decisions. Everyone else will forget. People will say you look so good (like you are supposed to look different cause you have a lump), don’t get upset, people don’t know what to say. I recommend the Reach to Recovery from the American Cancer Society. They have people to talk to about everything. They also have a lot of programs available to you to help with rides, wigs, etc.
I think it’s hard for people to know the ‘right thing to say’ to someone in their life who has been diagnosed. I did not want to hear the terrible stories about Aunt Bessy that died from breast cancer. I did not want to hear, “You’ll be fine,” from someone who never went through it. That might sound terrible, but at the time, you are so worried about dying that you don’t want to have someone fluff it off that you will be fine.
Showing support for me was asking me questions after surgery and educating people as to what was happening. Even showing people the scars helped me to show people that I was in fact, OK. My sisters sent a cleaning company to my house for 6 months and that was one of the best gifts I could have had. It made me feel good to have my house cleaned because you are so tired during this time. Also, my neighbor would just come and cut my grass. If you want to support someone, just go do something for them. Don’t tell them to ask you, just do it. Have faith in God. When I realized that God chose me for this journey, I felt special. I found a purpose for my life; to help educate and comfort women going through this.
Encourage the women in your life to do self-examinations at home as regularly as they can so they can know what is normal to them and be able to recognize if something doesn’t feel right.
There are many surgical decisions that need to be made as patients go through their breast cancer journey. Our staff at Bellissimo Plastic Surgery and Medi Spa want to walk with our patients through this chapter in their lives, helping them make informed decisions about their health and for their confidence. Many breast cancer patients see changes in their bodies they weren’t anticipating. We’re here to discuss with you your options for breast reconstruction. For more information, schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Antimarino.