After a move from Austin to Frisco, Texas it took me detecting a small lump in my left breast, to finally link up with a local doctor so that I could get a routine mammogram authorized through insurance. Unfortunately, nearly 2 years wasted away due to a misdiagnosis from that mammogram. For whatever reason – the term ‘fibrous cystic’ breasts didn’t resonate well with me, and without going into any deep explanation; I plainly knew the diagnosis was wrong. Regardless, I respected the medical opinion, and even though, I didn’t internally “accept it”….I chose to move on with my life in spite of the uneasiness and uncertainty around the lump. After all, they were medical professionals, right? They knew what they were doing.
That lump NEVER went away, and after becoming increasingly frustrated with the near 2 years diagnosis from the mammogram; I exaggerated to a nurse in the gynecologist’s office one day in a phone conversation that I was beginning to have spurts of unexpected pain from the area in question. In fact, truth is….there wasn’t much pain at all. The shape of the lump changed on occasion, sometimes it felt smaller, sometimes bigger, sometimes softer, sometimes harder….but honestly, it really caused very little discomfort – other than the uneasy intuition it left in my gut. It took just a few days to get another appointment with that doctor, which nearly led to another dismissal of my cancer diagnosis. I’ll never forget that day in his office; as we bantered back and forth as to what the ‘lump’ could be and what should be done….the way he wrote me a prescription for a diuretic – with a plan to drain the lump the coming Friday….etc. I ALMOST walked out of his office with a useless prescription. I’ll tell you though….I KNEW my body, and I KNEW it was telling me something. I pushed back on the doctor’s diagnostic plan in that appointment; finally refusing to accept the medical diagnosis from the previous mammogram; and did the BEST thing I’ve ever done for myself….and that was STAND up for my physical wellbeing. You see, at my age, at that time; it was highly unlikely I was experiencing anything life threatening. And in as great shape as I was, it made the unlikeliness that much more profound. Nonetheless, this doctor could see in my eyes; I wasn’t going to back down without a second look at the breast and lump in question. I got right into the Women’s Diagnostic Center in Plano Texas, that same afternoon, thank God. I still remember my appointment ‘time’ to this day, – it was SET, 1pm. After about 4 different mammography techniques and various approaches of sonogram and ultrasound to not just one breast, but both…. – I was confronted with the small voice in my head all those years – accelerating to a blowhorn! I can’t explain exactly if I heard all the details from the Radiologists mouth that day, as the more she talked the more she sounded like Charlie Brown’s mother. That voice that sort of just goes…”wah, wah, wah, wah….” -and then you lose track altogether of why you’re even there….and you’re looking at this person thinking…”who are you?”
To shorten a very long story – I will tell you that an attempt at a lumpectomy, left me with a return report from the breast surgeon of 5 out of 6 margins testing positive for cancer. It turns out the pathology revealed I had the very common DCIS (ductal cell insitu carcinoma)…..however, along with it I too was diagnosed with Poorly Differentiated Highly Aggressive Carcinoma/Breast Cancer. I was HER2nu positive, Estrogen neg. – and the cancer had been there for 3-7 years. I had a high grade tumor, and sat at the cusp of Stage III. A failed lumpectomy led to a bilateral mastectomy, lymph node removal (only 3), and insertion of tissue expanders. Followed with the maximum treatments of chemotherapy (the lovely, Adriamycin (aka the Red Devil), cytoxan, and taxotere), combined with a Clinical Trial Study which introduced me to a current lung cancer oral therapy – xeloda for an additional 4 cycles….I was exhausted. Upon completing all the chemotherapy which took 9 months, I faced a years worth of biological therapies also, all infusions.
Through all those years, of carefully managing my health, watching what I ate, priding myself in living a long/healthy life, staying physically active, pushing myself to the limits, supporting my body with the proper supplements and vitamins….there I was; sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. Riddled with insomnia, lack of appetite, severe exhaustion, bone pain, agony from the tissue expanders in place and the expansion treatments that came with them, neuropathy, a developed heart reflux/murmur from treatment, fear and quite possibly depression, I held on to two sources of strength left in me. First, the obvious…my FAITH in GOD and his ability to heal me and intercede on my behalf in this life – when he sees it’s to my BETTERMENT…and #2, being – I knew that in my life, I had done EVERYTHING right for myself physically. I had never smoked. I had never even experimented with recreational drugs, and I wasn’t the partying kind either. I walked a fine line in life, truly I did…..and with the medical professionals standing behind me, they each would say to me….”YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO BEAT THIS! YOU ARE HEALTHY. YOU HAVE TAKEN CARE OF YOURSELF. YOU ARE YOUNG. YOU ARE DETERMINED!”
Camil is a member of the Absolute Nutrition family and a cancer survivor.
This is her struggle with breast cancer.
I remembered my oncologist telling me….”had I not taken such good care of myself all those years, I probably wouldn’t have survived the odds as well as I did, and my prognosis would have been grim.” I can’t explain how that helped me….just him saying that to me. Up until that moment, I had felt like I failed my life and health somehow. That I had done something that perhaps caused this for me? I was upset and confused. By him reiterating to me the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it had confirmed for me that which I’ve known all along. Commitment to your physical well-being, DOES PAY OFF, even under the worst of circumstances.
We never know in life, what will come our way. We don’t know the end result, we don’t always know how to avoid the unbiased pitfalls life deals us. We sometimes inherit things unbeknownst to us, of no direct cause of anything we personally did in our life. There are just SOME things in this life that we will not have control over. I get that. I understood that, and understand that to this day.
Here’s what I can attest to, however. I believe that my personal mindset and attitude about fitness and health in general, perhaps saved my life. The odds were stacked against me. If you don’t believe me, ask those that were close to me at the time. I had some pushing me along the way; even when I bucked the system at bit, and felt frustrated and tired. I’m allergic to just about every medication that I needed to take to help deal with the chemotherapy. I’m allergic to narcotic pain medications, allergic to a slew of antibiotics too. When my blood levels would bottom out, I simply had to wait it out. It wasn’t fun. It took a lot of CLEAR thinking, and some WILL POWER to face the constant obstacles. Sometimes the things that were meant to help you, felt like they were killing you at the same time. (neulasta, being one of them) I had team members in my life – that helped me by insisting I get back UP, and get back in THE GAME. It helped me redefine my ability to FIGHT against ODDS. I am grateful still.
Shortly after coming through the initial chemo treatments – about 2 weeks out, I ran a 5K in Plano Texas. (Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure) I wasn’t trying for “any sort of time”, because I hadn’t been running at the time. I was weak, and the chemotherapy had caused great bone loss for me, and plainly – I was run down. Running with the developed left ventricular reflux of the heart and severe osteopenia, I managed to place 2nd as an Overall Survivor in the Race that year. I was shocked, and humbled at the same time.
The spirit of the heart, has a way of redirecting your mind. When you feel your body has reached its limits, we have a SPIRIT in us, an inner voice that says to compete against ourselves. It’s called self-improvement….and it’s called VICTORY. To me, VICTORY isn’t the numbers you see on a scoreboard….VICTORY is the SPIRIT of MANKIND and our ability to EXCEED our LIMITATIONS. It defies BOUNDARIES, and sets new RECORDS. I lived through some sticky odds with my BREAST CANCER diagnosis, and I hardly consider it an inhibitor today. I’ve got some long term physical defects due to the cancer and 4 reconstructive surgeries later, but those don’t hold me back from living my life. I encourage anyone facing a debilitating ailment, disease, or emotional downfall, to find your INNER SPIRIT, build a POSITIVE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS in your life, and recreate your sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT – and simply agree to LIVE AGAIN. I’m thankful I walked the walk I did, it taught me to reach out to others more kindly, be aware of someone in need, and exercise unconditional compassion. In other ways, it validated the need to be physically intuitive and conscientiously healthy. Control what you can in your life, accept responsibility for the things you can wrap your hands around, put your mind to, and commit your heart to…..and give the rest to God.
For my fellow friends/women and men experiencing a diagnosis of Breast Cancer – allow October to be the time of year; that you share your story, enlighten someone that is new to the diagnosis by your strengths and ability to overcome the sadness and depression associated with the fear of your diagnosis. Uplift the patient experiencing chemotherapy right now by letting them know – it’s a countdown, little by little….and the good news is….there is an END IN SIGHT to those treatments. You can only have “so many”…. Hug the person that has had to reconstruct themselves with the physical loss associated with this cancer, and remind them that they are BEAUTIFUL with their scars, implants, skin grafts, and perhaps even tattoos. There is no shame, in the mapping of a person’s body, left by battle scars. It is in fact, quite interesting, and generally detailed with a happy ending.
Peace be yours to every cancer warrior and their caregivers (family, friends, and medical staff). Be aware of your “INNER SPIRIT”….listen to it, and it will FIGHT for YOU.
~C (8 yrs and counting!)