Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Lisa N. on June 6, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage 3B
Date of Diagnosis:
November 15, 2007
Employment Status:
Full time
Age:
48
Type and Description of Treatments:
Had a Left modified radical mastectomy with 29 lymph nodes removed. The cancer mass was 10cm, 28 of the 29 lymphnodes had cancer present. Had reconstruction done concurrently a Free DIEP Flap reconstrcution. 6 rounds of chemo, TAC protocal once every 3 weeks. Followed by 28 rounds of radiation. Currently on 20mg of tamoxifan.
How do you feel today?

I feel as close to normal as I expect to ever feel. Get tired faster than I expect...it takes longer to recover after doing any strenuous activities. I'm cancer free and happy to be here. What could be better than that. The health side effects from the treatment are minor and don't interfere with my everyday life.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

After my few weeks off for the surgery I continued to work full time through my entire treatment. How do you survive economically if you don't? I work in the financial industry and work got really stressful and my income was reduced. The one year I need things to be uneventful. I kept saying, "God must think I am amazing, testing me like this". My 2 sons and husband really stepped up. My mom was a saint. My job was to work and take care of myself. during the year of treatment, I didn't cook one meal or do one load of laundry...or ever clean my house. I had a friend who I helped battle Glioblastoma and watched her lose her life 10 months before my diagnosis. It gave me strength like I never knew I had. I am a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo and one of the Grand Masters I know told me I had been training for this battle for years. He was right...my understanding of perseverance and fight kept me in a great place.

What is going well for you right now?

I'm cancer free. I'm working just like nothing ever happened. My family is healthy.

What is not going well for you right now?

Surviving the economic challenges of going through cancer...the aftermath and the sheer destruction of everything you have put in order gone. It feels like a rebuilding stage. You just pray the cancer doesn't come back so you can get back on your feet. I keep saying, "this too will pass".

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Taking an "A" type personality and forcing them to be cared for. Seeing people you love...strong people not be able to deal with your circumstance. Not be able to visit, not even be able to call. It is the saddest part. I didn't like the chemo brain..made working difficult. Grasping for words and not finding them. It is a helpless feeling.

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

My husband is a rock and thank god my best friend. He has a very calming way that settles me down right away.

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

I assume like most people who go through this you evaluate who you are in the world and have you made the impact you had hoped. I knew I had made am impact on the people that have come through my path..but I didn't feel like that was the only legacy I wanted to leave. So I have been searching for a way to make a difference that means something to me.

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

I drive 30 miles each way to work...which in So Cal can take 2 hours some days. I work 8 hours a day. Participate in my children's after school and school events. And have just gone back to instructing and training in Taekwondo.

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

I am not as fulfilled by my job, but don't know how to change that. I have worked at the same job for 25 years...I have no degree..so that makes changes very difficult.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

It's not a choice.

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

I took one day at a time. Ask others to take on everything else that needs tending to in your life. Allowing people that want to help you help. You are allowing them to feel needed and that they can help. They want to feel they are helping you through. Don't deny your family and friends. It helps them cope...they are going through it too.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

They are what they are and I wouldn't have done anything differently. The alternative is usually a death sentence. I have watched people refuse treatment for fear of the side effects..they aren't with us any longer.

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

In the beginning the constant changing diagnosis as they do more tests and get you further into the process is usually Dr's telling bad to worse news. Or at least that's the way it felt. Have someone knowledgeable who can give you the positive side, the hope side of every diagnosis. I had that person and it was a blessing. I called her my happy Dr. Know you have a great team of Dr's you absolutely trust. You aren't a Dr and they are making choices about your life. It is OK to get 2nd and 3rd opinions. But time is of the essence...so if it is a straight forward diagnosis and nothing uncommon; you might be better served starting your treatment instead of second guessing the Dr's. Only you can weigh that for yourself. Be comfortable with every decision and ask questions till you understand. Pray and welcome other people's prayers.