Never in a million years did I think I would be the one in the one in eight women who have breast cancer. I thought, I'm young - under 40, I work out every day, eat healthy, sleep eight hours a night, cancer can’t happen to me. And then it does...
My OBGYN had been pushing me to get a mammogram at just 38 due to family history - my Grandmother had breast cancer and my father had prostate cancer (he died 12 years ago of Glioblastoma). I was a busy working mom with a full time corporate job, two little girls and a jam-packed schedule it wasn’t until I was changing jobs this past spring with a two-week break between jobs that I finally had time to schedule one.
Procrastination is so easy when you’re a devoted wife and mother. You always find time for others, but can barely find time for simple tasks like brushing your teeth, let alone finding time for a mammogram or the BRCA Foundation test. But thankfully for me that time did come when I decided to change jobs and finally had time to get a mammogram. The week before my mammogram I noticed something when doing a self-exam. My boobs definitely felt different after nursing so I thought it was nothing. Heading to a gymnastics birthday party I asked my dear friend, Dr. Anna Katz, a breast surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital to do a quick exam at the party. Dr. Katz recommended an ultrasound and mammogram and what followed I will never forget.
Thursday, June 14 will forever be a date that is branded in mind. That was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What? Why? How? Were all questions going through my head. The next few days and weeks were a blur. The doctors, nurses and what felt like endless tests. And with four months of chemotherapy planned you’d think that was the worst part of my diagnosis. In fact, the hands down worst moment for me was telling my kids. With numerous chemotherapy treatments scheduled, I knew I would start losing my hair. And so it came time for the inevitable conversation.
When you think you’ve already been through the worst of it, I found myself on Father’s Day telling my five year old and seven year old daughter that their mommy had cancer. There’s no book for raising kids and definitely no book on how to tell your kids that your mom has cancer. I had had lows before, but the day I had to tell my children I had cancer will forever be the lowest low and the worst day of my life.
The positive of my diagnosis? I feel really lucky! Yes, I should have gone in earlier to get my mammogram, but when I finally did go in, I was stage 2B and the horrible disease had only spread to my lymph nodes. I also did genetic testing and found out I was BRCA 2+ so now my girls will get the testing they need early on to ensure they catch any cancer early.
Cancer has also taught me to truly appreciate my life and to be thankful for what I have – a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, amazing friends and family and my new goal to help other woman not have to go through the hell I am living, breathing and going through. I want to be able to help women who can't afford ancillary services when they are diagnosed with breast cancer.
The minute I got diagnosed, I shared my story for everyone to read. I choose to be open about everything I was going through, the good, the bad and ugly. I felt there were not a lot of people my age sharing their story. Sure you can read about this celebrity or that celebrity going through this, but I am a normal Deerfield mom. I also chose to continue life as normal, workout when I felt good, never let my kids see me sick or lying in bed. I chose to kick cancer's ass. My friends and family started calling me BadAss Beth and the rest is history.