Two years. Two years ago, life was pretty different for my mom, as I’m sure that is the case for a lot of people. In 2018, I was writing for a website I no longer work for, but I was creating content that forced me to start begging my mom to get a mammogram.
Growing up, I never remember my mom going to her yearly check-ups. My parents would always make sure my brother and I saw the doctor when we needed to and that we were up-to-date on what was needed to keep us healthy. But my parents never did that for themselves, at least that I can recall.
Mom Beats Stage III Breast Cancer After Two Year Battle
But that all has changed ever since my mom was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. In March 2018, nearly a year after my mom got her first mammogram at 47, she was diagnosed with cancer.
At first, she was told the lump in her armpit wasn’t something she should worry about. Then the lump in her breast started getting bigger and we sought out a second opinion. Honestly, my mom is lucky her diagnosis came when it did. At the time, my brother was finishing up undergraduate school and was getting set to take on medical school.
If it wasn’t for his job as an emergency room scribe, if it wasn’t for the contacts he made at his local hospital, my mom would have never pulled together the most incredible group of doctors and nurses that would ultimately help save her life.
In April 2018, my mom started chemotherapy after learning she was a carrier of the BRCA 1 gene. Following six rounds of treatment, she rung her first bell on August 2, 2018, after having lost her hair, her appetite, but never her will to keep fighting.
Just one month later, my mom opted to have a double mastectomy. It was painful, it was emotional, but it was the choice she had to make to lessen her chances of the cancer ever coming back. Then came 27 rounds of radiation, even though she initially needed 36.
Again, my mom showed a grace and determination I’ve never seen before. Not only did she fly through her radiation, but she did so while keeping a smile on everyone’s face. She even made up a game while undergoing her treatments which consisted of seeing how long she could hold her breath as the nurses and technicians cheered her on.
By this time in her journey, we had been inside more hospitals, waiting rooms, and exam rooms than we had in our entire lives.
On January 11, 2019, my mom rang her second bell signifying the end of her radiation and being one step closer to the end of her battle and to the start of a new beginning. Shortly after finishing radiation, my mom opted to have a hysterectomy.
Not only does the BRCA 1 gene increase a person’s chances of having breast cancer, but it also increases a woman’s chances of getting ovarian cancer. During this time, my mom’s hair started growing back, she regained her appetite and her follow-up tests and appointments went swimmingly.
All except for one. Chemotherapy and radiation can lead to a slew of side effects, one of them being that radiation can directly impact a person’s thyroid. It took a while for doctors to find just the right dosage of medicine to get her thyroid working properly again, but we count our lucky stars that it wasn’t anything worse.
And that led us to the final step of her journey, reconstruction surgery after having both of her breasts removed. The surgery went well, and there were no signs of new growth that were cause for concern.
As my mom was waking up from the over three-hour surgery, she said, “These people are all so nice. I thought it might have been a fluke the first time around, but every time I’ve been here, the doctors, nurses, and staff have all been so nice. I recommend surgery.”
I think what my still loopy from the anesthesia mother meant by that was cancer sucks, fighting cancer sucks, but when you have people around you who get it, it makes the uphill battle easier. Yes, my mom never had to go to an appointment or a treatment alone, but what truly makes the difference is the attitudes the doctors, nurses, and staff bring to work each day.
It can’t be easy keeping a smile on your face when you are surrounded by so much hurt and pain on a regular basis. But from first-hand experience, I can say that it makes all the difference. Heck, it even makes your mom recommend surgery.
It’s been two years, two years since my mom was diagnosed with a rare strain of stage III breast cancer. At first, the odds against her weren’t good, now she’s cancer-free. What a difference 710 days can make.
Life is hard, life is scary, life will knock you down if you let it. But life can be so, so beautiful when you take what it throws at you and fight like hell.
Sara Vallone has been a writer and editor for the last four and a half years. A graduate of Ohio University, she enjoys celebrity news, sports, and articles that enhance people’s lives.
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