Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Tracy W. on April 28, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
triple negative breast cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
May 23, 2007
Employment Status:
full time paralegal
Type and Description of Treatments:
I have been diagnosed with breast cancer twice before the age of 40. First time was on the left side in 1998, at age 28. I had a lumpectomy followed by four treatments of AC and four treatments of taxotere and then radiation. My dianosis for a new primary cancer on the right side (at age 37) followed the same course: lumpectomy, chemo (5 treatments of cytoxian and taxotere; could not get adryomician again)and then radiation. Insurance company denied my request and appeals for genetic testing, so I finally decided to pay for it myself. Despite no prior family history of breast cancer, I came back BRCA-1. Therefore, opted to undergo a bilateral mastectomy in June 2008 and I am currently going through the reconstruction process with silicone implants.
How do you feel today?

Today, like right this moment, I feel a little shaky. I have these days that I refer to as "hitting the wall." They come from out of the blue, but as I was getting ready for work yesterday I knew I was going to end up back in bed. And I did, until 4:30 in the afternoon! I guess my body can only go so much and then it needs a break. Today I am back at work, grateful to be here, but always wondering when this will happen again (usually once a month or so). Otherwise, most of the time I feel fine and I just bought a new swimsuit that manages to cover all my scars - you would never know that I am a breast cancer survivor! I think I will feel very confident in it.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I joined a young women's support group (which did not exist the first time around) and have a lot more friends and activities going on. Also, still trying to live life to the fullest. I think that is what wears me out sometimes, trying to do it all. Otherwise, sill married and still as close to my family as before.

What is going well for you right now?

This past year I have been attending several breast cancer conferences in other cities. Get breast cancer and see the world - - who knew!? The opportunity to meet other survivors while going places I have never been has been a wonderful combination.

What is not going well for you right now?

See response above - I still have these "low energy" days that take me off guard. My body seems to crave a nice long nap. Once it has done that, I feel better again.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Having to go to all the appointments for doctors and tests. Not wanting to go, mainly for the long waiting periods sitting in the lobby, and tired of going all the time (have to constantly re-movtivate myself).

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

Mom, best friend, support group buddies, husband (pretty much in that order). Husband just wants everything to be normal; not always the most sympathetic, warm-fuzzy person to go to.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

Did not really have a long term goal, at least career-wise, because I thought I would be taking time off to raise a family. But, cancer took care of that life goal. To some extent that is fine. We have nieces and nephews to spoil and send back home, just like grandparents would do.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I work full time. Try to stick to 8:30 - 5:30, but if my commute puts me in late, I end up staying late to make up my time. Then I get home late, get dinner late, go to bed later, etc. It can become a vicious cycle some weeks. That's when I am grateful we don't have children; not sure how survivors with kids juggle it all.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

Work situation during my first diagnosis was awful. This time I am with a different company and things were much better - very supportive and understanding.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

Liking my job and having good co-workers. And, right now, I need to work since my husband's pay was cut at his job.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

To some extent it is good to work thru treatment as it makes you get up in the morning, put your makeup on and get your mind on something else. But, be realistic and don't push yourself - - - which is usually a lot easier said than done!

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Thankfully, no real physical side effects. I'm not in any pain and have a full range of motion. These "hitting the wall" days, however, really take the wind out of my sails, physically as well as emotionally.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

Be kind to yourself. Let others help more. Exercise as a stress reliever, even if you don't feel like it. Worry less about others and more about yourself. Etc.