Cancer prevention and screenings have come a long way. From more advanced imaging to genetic testing, cancers are being caught identified and treated earlier than ever before. But sadly, even if you take every test, go in for every annual screening, and perform every preventative measure, sometimes cancer still happens.
That’s what happened to Cecelia. Cecilia was always diligent with her annual mammograms and when her screening in February of 2021 came back clean, she felt she had nothing to worry about. Later that fall, when doctors found a small node in her left breast, she still felt confident. After all, the tests had caught it early, while the cancer was only a small node. Her doctor believed it could be removed with a lumpectomy.
But it wasn’t a small node. When her surgeons began to remove the tumor, they found a series of cancerous stands, forming what Cecilia calls a “spiderweb of cancer”, connecting lymph nodes throughout her breast. What they thought was a small node was stage 3 carcinoma.
Rather than a lumpectomy, Cecilia underwent a full mastectomy in March, followed by months of chemotherapy, then radiation all the way until Thanksgiving. “It’s been a rough year”, Cecilia remembers.
Like many survivors, Cecilia learned that the end of chemo and radiation isn’t the end of the journey. She was put on a couple long term drugs to help decrease her chance for recurrence. The new medication caused fatigue, among other side effects. When she lost her eyebrows and lashes for the second time, Cecilia reached the end of her rope. “It was a real come to Jesus moment,” she remembers, “I couldn’t keep this up indefinitely, with no end in sight.”
Cecilia began talking her doctor about dose reduction, to help control the debilitating side effects. It was also around the same time that a nurse recommended A Time to Heal.
“It was the first support group I ever went to,” Cecilia says, “for anything. It was a completely new experience.” She appreciated the book as a resource that she could keep, as well as the experience of being able to connect with other survivors and her their perspectives and experiences.
One thing she learned from her experience was to give herself grace. To other survivors, she would say, “Acknowledge that you’re doing through a lot and it’s okay to take your time and take care of yourself. Give yourself the grace to have bad days and rest when you need to.”
Cecilia’s story also reminds us all of the importance of continuing cancer research. The tests and screenings we have a great, but they can also leave people like Cecilia blindsided when cancer comes in unexpected ways.
In Cecilia’s case, she did everything right. She went to her screenings, her doctors were responsive at the first sign of something unusual, but it wasn’t enough. It’s not anyone’s fault- cancer never is. That’s why improvements in screening and testing are so important so that we catch every kind of cancer and improve outcomes for all survivors.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Cecelia, and for making A Time to Heal part of your journey. If you would like to join one of our FREE classes, click here: https://atimetohealfoundation.org/programs/