Breast cancer fighter: 'God was with us every step'

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Growing up as a female, you hear the words breast cancer often.

You see it on billboards, the television, the radio and even the ongoing awareness information during the entire month of October.

There are campaigns to raise money for awareness and to celebrate survivors. The information is everywhere around us.

You see it, you hear it, but it often doesn't resonate until it personally affects you, a close friend, or a family member.

I felt I always understood the cause and understood the need for awareness fully, until it was forced into my life.

Waking up one morning, I found a small lump in my right breast. To this day I do not know how I found it. Although I was educated on self examinations, I did not have the habit of checking frequently for the cancer that affects so many women. Once I found the lump, it consumed my thoughts every day. Checking the lump every day became a routine and I felt the lump grow larger, so I decided to have it checked out by a doctor.

The doctor checked the lump and sent me home to watch it carefully and come back and see him in two weeks. When I went back, the lump had almost doubled in size, and the doctor scheduled a mammogram.

This was my first mammogram because I was only 38 years old and mammograms are not usually recommended until age 40. I went in for my mammogram and had to wait two weeks for the results.

The results were concerning, and I was then scheduled for a more diagnostic mammogram.

Arriving at the next mammogram was a different experience. The waiting room was vibrant and calming. There were women sitting in pretty pink robes -- not those ugly hospital gowns that make you feel sick and exposed to those around you. They had me change into a pink robe and asked me to sit in the waiting room until I was called.

They called my name within a few minutes and in I went. I had always heard the exam was painful and uncomfortable, so I prepared myself. Once I went in and the exam started, I realized that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had heard. The technician was very sweet, gentle and attentive. She tried her best to set my mind at ease and to make it as comfortable as possible. I was under the understanding that I would be waiting another couple weeks for results, just like last time. This would give me the opportunity to rehearse how I was going to tell my daughter.

I was a single parent and had no family and few friends here. We had only lived here for about two years. The agony of having the talk with my daughter was killing me because I recently fought a battle with Lyme disease, which nearly took my life. I remember my daughter falling apart as she watched me struggle to walk, speak, eat and remember things that had happened only 10 minutes ago. The Lyme disease was rapidly destroying my central nervous system and my body. It took about three years for me to get rid of the disease and get my health and life back to normal.

I never thought I would have another big fight on my hands so soon. Once the mammogram was finished, I got dressed and wait in the wanting room. I learned that this particular test would give instant results, the results of which I would know before I left.

My name was called and I was led into a private room where the doctor explained the results to me. We decided that a lumpectomy would be the best next step, and we went ahead and scheduled it.

I felt such a relief because I had answers, but was so scared to go home and have that talk with my daughter. To put her through this again was devastating to me.

That night, we sat down and talked. I could feel the lump in her throat for her. We cried, we hugged and we talked about how everything was going to be OK and that we were going to fight this fight together, along with my closest friend.

Surgery was scheduled and my mind was on overload with questions and worries. How much was going to be removed? How big was the scar going to be? Would my breasts look different from each other? Would they be able to get all of the cancer? Would I need chemotherapy and radiation? Would I lose my hair? Would I be sick all of the time? My mind was like a roller coaster and sleep wasn't my friend.

Surgery day came, and my closest friend and my daughter came with me for support. They played such a huge role in this process and my recovery. My daughter and my friend were my rock, my love and my support team.

Surgery went well, and I received a call not long after with the great news that they were able to get enough surrounding tissue that no further treatment was needed. They were able to get all of the cancer out, and I was on the road to recovery. Our joy was overwhelming and the recovery time was minimal. There was no apparent difference in size, the scar was small and almost unnoticeable. God was with us every step of the way.

To this day, I make it a habit to do self-examinations on a regular basis. I have learned that early detection and treatment is a necessity for your chances of beating this cancer that affects so many women in the world. Cox Health, as well as Mercy Healthcare, both played such an important role in our lives, and our fight to beat this with such great procedures and rapid testing.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone about breast cancer, it would be to make it a habit and part of your routine to do regular self examinations, get tests done quickly and act rapidly on what is needed to be done.

Involve you family members and friends in this process, because you will need their support. Have faith that God will be there every step of the way for you, as well as your family and your friends.

But the start always will begin with you.

Marion Chrysler is an account executive for the Cassville Democrat. She can be reached at cassvillesales2@gmail.com, or 417-847-2610.