Five of her close relatives, including her mom, had cancer, so she had regular mammograms and performed self-exams, but at the age of 40 being diagnosed with breast cancer was a huge shock for Trish.
Breast cancer is very prominent in my family. My sister, my mother, two aunts, and a cousin all on the maternal side are all survivors. Because of this, I was very diligent about mammograms and performing self-checks (self-breast examinations) on myself.
My OB/GYN felt a lump and did a biopsy. It came back positive for cancer, stage two. I was 40 years old, married with two little boys. My initial reaction was to imagine what my funeral would be like. Nevertheless, I quickly regained my composure, dove into research, and educated myself. Knowledge is power, and after I realized what my options were and that my chances of surviving this were very good, I had a "Bring it on!" attitude.
"My initial reaction was to imagine what my funeral would be like. However, I quickly regained my composure, dove into research, and educated myself. Knowledge is power, and after I realized what my options were and that my chances of surviving this were very good, I had a 'Bring it on!' attitude. Whenever things got tough and I did not want to cry in front of my kids, I would go out, jump on my horse, and gallop as fast as I could through the countryside and let the tears come. It was wonderful therapy."
When I was first diagnosed, I was devastated and looked at it like a death sentence. Then my cousin Suzy, who is a survivor, told me, "Trish, I know you'll think this sounds crazy, but for me, getting cancer and surviving it, has been one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I now get up in the morning and revel in the sunshine. I am more patient with my kids, more loving with my husband, more appreciative of my friends, and I do not sweat the small stuff anymore. And, Trish, it's all small stuff." Now that I am approaching my 5-year survivor anniversary, I realize my cousin was right. I am, by far, a better person for it.
I had a lumpectomy and artillery dissection, where they first remove the sentinel node, which they biopsied immediately when I was on the operating table. Because it was positive for cancer, they proceeded to take out 14 more lymph nodes. The cancer was only in three of the 14 lymph nodes. It was stage two, but luckily, we caught it early and stopped it in its tracks. I then had 6 months of chemo and 7 weeks of radiation. My sisters, mom, and aunts were my support group, since they were all survivors. I also had my husband, my kids, and my horse. Whenever things got tough and I did not want to cry in front of my kids, I would go out, jump on my horse, and gallop as fast as I could through the countryside and let the tears come. It was wonderful therapy.
My advice is to educate yourself on all your options. Read positive survival stories (like this one!) and watch funny movies, as laughter is so healing. Get out in nature, whether it is riding horses, walking your dog, or swimming in a lake; tap into nature's healing power. When people offer to help, take them up on it! Let them clean your house or bring your meals, even if you might be feeling okay on that particular day. So many women feel they need to do it all … maintain all their roles in life in addition to battling cancer. Feel free to say NO to invitations. Open a blog site at www.caringbridge.com. It is a wonderful site for cancer patients and a fantastic way to keep your friends and relatives up to date, without having to return a hundred phone calls.