Debra’s Breast Cancer Success StoryI was very fortunate to find it early on. It had not entered my lymph nodes. I went through a series of testing and operations, including a mammogram, genetic testing, fertility treatments, egg harvesting, needle biopsy, lumpectomy, double mastectomy and reconstruction. I also endured chemotherapy treatment. During that year, I lost my breasts and all of my hair–but believe it or not, I didn’t lose my smile.
Being diagnosed when I was so young brought up questions of the possibility of a history of breast cancer in my family. I didn’t know of a single person on either my mother’s or father’s side that had breast cancer, so I thought it was strange for them to ask. I did remember that my father’s mother passed away, while fairly young, from ovarian cancer. I underwent genetic testing that showed I had received the BRCA1 gene carried by my father, which indicates susceptibility to breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer.
Because of this gene, I get check-ups on my ovaries every three months, to make sure they are healthy. It is recommended that my ovaries be removed by the age of 40. I went through fertility treatment during breast cancer, to harvest and freeze eggs, so I could potentially use them later, if I don’t have children by then.
It wasn’t the easiest of paths, but along the way, I felt more love and support than I had ever felt before or could even fathom feeling. I was lucky. I made all kinds of new friends: from amazing doctors and caring nurses, to other women undergoing treatment with inspiring courage. I also rekindled many friendships from years past. I became strong enough, at the end of that year, to walk with my family in the three day, sixty mile Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure…in an army of survivors and their supporters.
I have learned a lot from this experience. I have grown tremendously and have become even more appreciative of my life. I would not trade the chain of events that occurred during these past years for anything. I no longer let the little things in life upset me, as I have put things in perspective in a major way. I feel lucky to be able to share my story with others and to emphasize the importance of early detection. I would love to think that sharing my story might touch the life of someone that needs to hear: You can survive this. It is not a death sentence. In fact, it will change your life in many great ways.
This challenge has also helped me to grow creatively, with a much clearer focus. As an artist, I am able to express myself with more depth and passion, and hopefully, with a purpose. I am now doing commission paintings and have had gallery showings. I create unique jewelry as well and I am also in the process of designing a collection of clothing with a humanitarian cause in mind.
I remember where I’ve been during this journey from cancer to wellness, and I hope each piece I create reflects how much love I pour into my work. Whether it is jewelry to adorn yourself with or a painting to display in your home, it comes from a heart full of gratitude for each day of my life.
A broader view of my paintings and jewelry may be seen on my website at www.allthewhile.com. Until then….
Remember, Check Your Boobies! I did, and this is my story. xx