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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Be A Survivor!

Several of you have written asking me to share more of my experiences of when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  Regrettably most of us at one time or another has been given the frightening news from a doctor either about ourselves or our loved ones that will change our lives forever.

The moment you hear those words it’s like you’re in a dazed state. You hear the doctor talking but yet your mind doesn’t let you grasp what he is saying. Shocked, bewildered and overwhelmed your thinking this isn’t happening it must be a mistake.

I know this was how I felt when I heard the words you have Breast Cancer. It came as such a surprise to me because I was not ill. All kinds of thoughts run through your head your thinking if I have cancer wouldn’t I know it? Wouldn’t I be feeling sick? 

Most often a lot of cancers or illnesses are found accidentally through testing for entirely something all together unrelated to what you are diagnosed with. As for me I kept having acid reflux and while doing test for this my doctor went ahead and ordered other test. By doing so he saved my life.

Along with other test he ordered a mammogram which showed I had a small knot in my left breast. This lead to a needle biopsy which confirmed I had cancer.

I remember being surrounded by several nurses and doctors in a large room with my husband by my side when they gave me the results of the biopsy.  It was a Friday late afternoon and we were told to go home and return Monday to see a surgeon and an oncologist.

You will always remember moments like this one. I remember my husband saying something like I hate this for you. To me then I was hurt thinking thats all he has to say but now I know after having experienced other moments of bad news given to me about my mother, siblings and children I too failed at what to say to them. Try to remember the ones that love you the most are hurting too and they may not know how to express to you what their feeling. It's not that they don't love you with all their hearts they just don't know what to say except I Love You.

Keep them updated on how your feeling. It's hard on them too so don't shut them out.

That next day after being told of my cancer I went to our public library and I checked out every book I could find about Breast Cancer.  I felt guilty checking all of them out thinking someone else might need them but I told myself I would return them on Monday. I just knew that I had to read everything I could about what I was diagnosed with before seeing a surgeon on Monday.

I wanted to be prepared with a list of questions for them. If I can give any advice to any of you it would be to do your homework. Research, talk to others and when you meet with different doctors have a list of questions you want answered. No question is a dumb question.
One thing I found in my research was that a lot of men and women upon finding out they had breast cancer they immediately opted to have their breast removed. I had lived through this with my Dad. Unbelievable as this may sound he and I both were diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the same age of 45.  I remember the doctors at MD Anderson not giving my daddy any options but radical mastectomy. I knew after twenty something years later there had to be more and better options for dealing with Breast Cancer than a mastectomy.  So I did the research.

I challenged the surgeons and made them be totally honest with me about my chances of survival with or without a mastectomy. The reason for me challenging the doctors was in my research I had found that a lot of people who have Breast Cancer their chances were the same if they chose not to have a mastectomy. Please know that if the doctors had told me No your chances are not the same then yes of course I would have had a mastectomy but I chose not to go through this radical surgery when they were honest with me and told me Yes your right. Your chances are the same. I was lucky they had found it in time. This gave me another option of having a Lumpectomy.

Hearing this is when I made the crucial decision to go for the lumpectomy. I was then told that I would have surgery of the removal of the knot and some tissues surrounging it plus removal of all my lymph nodes under that arm. After this healed I would be given eight or more weeks of radiation. I received good news about no cancer in my lymph nodes and so then the doctors discussed should I have Chemo too. It was decided later that instead of Chemo I was given the drug Tamoxifen for the next five years. 

I have to say that you have to do what is best for you when given the news of cancer or some other illness. Please don’t think I am trying to tell you to not listen to your doctors. I would never tell you that I am just saying do your homework. Ask questions and lots of them so you can make the best decision along with your doctor. The more informed you are of what you have the better chance you have of fighting it.

I also have learned from research that when dealing with Breast Cancer you should have at least Radiation or Chemo. Most often you will be given both but do question the doctor who tells you because you had surgery you don't need either one. It's your life so if you don't feel good at what their telling you then don't hesitate to get another doctors advice.

Ask if your surgeon and your cancer doctor are on the same page with your care. One may choose one option and the other chooses another so make sure this is not the case.

Another piece of advice I want to give you is attitude is everything in beating cancer or anything. YOU have to tell yourself and mean it that you’re going to beat this disease. I remember lying in bed at night picturing the radiation attacking all the bad cells in my body. It was like picturing the game Pac Man. Sounds silly but it was my way of thinking I was doing something to protect myself. Hey you do what you gotta do to get well.

I also had read that laughter was your best medicine. I know your thinking who wants to laugh when you feel like crying. It really does work. Laughter can be the best medicine out there and its fun to take. I rented funny movies. My husband and I went to funny movies. When the kids came home from college to visit we really had happy moments. I don’t mean you have to walk around laughing the whole time of course that is asking too much but be around positive people. Think only positive thoughts. Every day I wrote on my calendar or journal God Help Me to Remember There Is Nothing That You and I Can’t Handle Together.

Surround yourself with people you love and the things you love. Pretty flowers, music, friends, family and chocolate. My children and friends phoned me all the time. They came to see me. I knew I was loved.
I have to add here that we of course are all different. You may not want to talk about it or you may just want to be alone. Whatever is best for you is what you should do. Only you know and you may have to let others know that is what your feeling. Not all of us are like me who lets it all out.

One of my favorite things to do when going through treatments was on some weekends we would grab a quilt take a picnic basket and sit out on the grounds of Festival Hill during their evening concerts. We were surrounded by gorgeous plants and flowers that thrived on these beautiful grounds. Music played by gifted artist flowed out the concert hall windows and doors to us while we were enjoying mother nature.

Festival Hill is such a beautiful place that sometimes even today I slip off by myself and just meditate while surrounded by God's overflow of beauty in nature. I remember telling my husband someday I will come back to this place and give back to it. So now I volunteer for some of the concerts or I stuff envelopes for their many thousand letters and cards they send out periodically.

Also I kept a journal. Every day even if it only for ten minutes you need to write your feelings down. Get the all the negative thoughts out of you and on paper. At this time of your life I can not stress it more than anything you need to think nothing but good positive healing thoughts. Hard yes but you can do it.  

I am not saying going through an illness of any kind is easy. It's not! You will shed tears and lots of them. That's ok we are all human. We can't help but be scared and cry but don't let it take you over. You take over and you tell yourself your going to beat this and then you do it. No other option is out there.

My main reason for starting my blog was just to journal. I don’t remember which doctor told me to keep a journal but I do remember he told me that a journal was the healthiest thing a person can do for themselves. You know how I write everything on here. Somedays I am drowning in self pity, other days I am crawling through the second floor window with my big dooper hanging out with the cowboy driving by. Most days I am asking you for prayers for myself and family. I am putting my thoughts down and journaling.

Another thing that helped me was I worked through the whole eight weeks of radiation. The only time I took off was a few weeks for my surgery and the last few days of radiation treatments when my Warden sent me home.  Not everyone can do this and you have to know what your limits are for you. At that time in my life I needed to be surrounded by my crazy co-workers. My children were away at college and my husband even though I knew he loved me it just wasn’t enough. I felt like I had to stay busy. Not be at home every day where I might lay around and feel sorry for myself. You have to once again choose what is right for you.

Most of all talk to God and ask him to help you through this difficult time and to keep you strong. He loves you and is there for you night and day. Prayers work! As you well know I believe in the power of prayers. 

I hope this has helped you and I am a survivor now for almost nineteen years. You will be too. 
Just be gentle with yourself. Let others help you. Remember God Loves You and I do too. I am just a phone call or email away.

Like Warden Roy said, “Stand up tall and Hold your Head Up.”

Love to all


Paula said...

Wonderful entry with good advice. Noticed that TV on your side bar. Our first one was almost like your's. Oh boy! we've come a long way in eletronics, haven't we?

From the Kitchen said...

Very powerful post! Perhaps this should be in a pamphlet handed out to all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.


Debby said...

You have given some good advice. It is such a hard thing in the beginning with the diagnosis. My oncologist had a tape recorder. He recorded that first visit. That was so thoughtful I thought. I didn't remember anything he was saying. My husband was asking the questions as I sat there in a stupor.
I am glad we are both survivors.

Nezzy said...

What a wonderful survivor story filled with some positively powerful advice there girl.

I lost a sister~in~law to breast cancer who still had three children at home. It was a battle she pushed through for a long time.

I do believe faith, positive attitude and the will to beat then enemy goes a long, long way fightin' cancer.

I know this story couldn't of been easy for you to tell but your touchin' lives here sweetie.

God bless ya and have a most awesome kinda day my sweet friend!!! :o)

We love ya Maggs!!!

Julia said...

Hi Maggie, I agree with Bonnie, your advice is right on.

It's a scary thing to be diagnosed with cancer especially for young person who are in the prime of their lives.

Thanks so much for the courage to share this part of your struggle with breast cancer. hugs, JB

Shirley said...

Maggie, Your advice really hit home this morning even though mine is involving my other half. I can relate to so much of what you said. I started my blog because I wanted to meet other people and it gave me someone else to talk to besides family. I do keep a journal and make notes of doctor visits, hospital stays, and do make a list for the doctor. I enjoy reading your blog so much and your coming to visit. Well I need to cut this short, I am out the door to the doctors and hoping for some more answers. Hugs from Your Missouri Friend.

Sue said...

It's good for women to share these experiences, and I'm so glad you did. I'm sure it will strengthen someone else and give them hope, probably many people.

I've had three close friends go through chemo and radiology for breast cancer. It was quite a fight, but all of them are surviving.


Carolyn said...

This has to be the best post ever written for your self shows through so clearly. Now I know who Maggie is, really and truly! Thank you Maggie. Although I know all you advised, sometimes we tend to forget when so far down in spirit. I'm coping better today than I was yesterday. I made another post starting at 2 am this morning. Mammograms have never shown anything so I'm lucky. I quit having them yet most likely my newly acquired doctor will want one done. I've had too much radiation in my life and want not one "nano"s worth more. I take a small dose of baking soda regularly to stay alkalized. Cancer only grows in acidic conditions. Research about this. Thank you for your prayers Maggie. Sandra is having a hard time over the matter and also his son.

My Grama's Soul said...

Hi dear Maggie...I have not stopped by here in forever. It is great to catch up with you and your life again. This post today was so very insightful and inspiring.

I know ladies out there struggling with this disease and it is nice to know "someone who has beat it".



Chatty Crone said...

Phew - what a story! Great advice - I have a friend who just went though it herself. How long has it been now? And I believe in being positive too. sandie

Sharon said...

This was a very powerful post and I learned a lot of things from you.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Prayers are indeed powerful.

Angela said...

My dear friend Sandie of Chatty Crone sent me here to read your post. I just had a mastectomy of my right breast on March 14th. I unfortunately didn't have the option of a lumpectomy. My surgeon tried to help me from having to go to the extreme by ordering extra tests and talking to boards of other doctors about my case. Everyone agreed that a mastectomy was my only option. I unfortunately had 2 different places in that breast that had cancer. After my surgery I awoke to the wonderful news that my cancer was not in my lymph nodes! Praise the Lord! I will be seeing an oncologist but I am hoping to not have to have chemo or radiation. I do know a few ladies that were diagnosed 20 years ago that didn't have to do either and they are fine. I'm hoping that with all the information they have about my cancer I will given a clean bill of health but we'll keep a close watch on it.

Thanks for writing this post! I've been posting some on my blog about my breast cancer. Once my head clears up more from taking the pain medicine I plan on writing how the earthquake this past summer saved my life!


Rocky Mountain Woman said...

It's amazing how strong we can be when we have to! Thanks for sharing your story, sweetie. The advice about the journal is excellent. Writing helps me make sense of life even when nothing else seems to..



Theanne said...

a lovely post!

Garden of Egan said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful and miraculous if no one ever had to hear those words again?

It sounds like you did the absolute best of everything you could do and you went well armed.

sjmcdowell said...

What a wonderful and informative post you have written. You write so well and so thoughtfully Maggie.
You have been through so much dear friend and I admire you so very much. You are a fighter and especially your faith in God has gotten you through so many trials. I know if not for my faith in the Lord I would not have made it through rough times either.

Thank you for reaching out to so many, and helping them in their journey through cancer, and other trials that we all go through in our lives.

Love and Blessings,


Arkansas Patti said...

Wonderful post Maggie and it would really help someone facing a similar problem. I am agreeing with Bonnie.
I have a different type of cancer but am a 12 year survivor. The only thing I could add to your great post is for newly diagnosed persons to join a support group.
Only another cancer survivor really knows what your are feeling and they can help with the thousand questions that come up and share the answers they have found.
Bless you gal.

Darlene said...

What a wonderful post, Maggie. It is so full of the best kind of suggestions for one who is unfortunate to get breast cancer. I was impressed with all of the advice you gave, and do hope that you will have helped someone through this awful thing that can happen to both men and women.

It is just too bad that it will only be seen by your blogging friends.

You have been through so many bad things in your life Maggie, and have always managed to get through them. You are a true survivor and a great example for many.

Gypsy Heart said...

Absolutely the best! As a volunteer with Chemo Angels and my own personal beliefs, maintaining a positive attitude is key. I have not experienced your situation but I just think that looking at and for the good is much better than dwelling in the negative. Of course, we all have bad days ~ we're human for Heaven's sake! You are a very strong woman and have a great sense of humor. I know that served you it does today.

Yep, I'm keeping the prayers going!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your cancer experiences with us. I wish there were a way for this post to be seen my more than just your group of followers.
It is well written and gives such important advice to people that have any kind of disease.
If I had a blog I would join yours. From time to time I come by to see what you are writing about.
Your an inspiration to a lot of people grandmayellowhair.
Thank you for this post

Forty Pound Sack said...

Maggie, we have a lot in common. I had breast cancer, too, and opted for a quadrectomy - a lumpectomy when there are four tumors - and radiation, and I opted to work through radiation, too. I avoided chemo and am on Tamoxifen now. I have my 18 month check in April. You're right, you never forget those moments. Hugs!

**CREATIVE CARMELINA** said... live with conviction, and you fight with courage. Your story is very powerful indeed. it must have been a great release for you to have taken the time to write out your experience and all of your advice to any who might be under this trial.


Ivanhoe said...

Congratulations, Survivor! I'm so glad to hear that. I worked Oncology dept for about a year & plan to come back one day. The bonds I formed with many of my patients are unbelievable. Sadly, for most of the patients (esp. the later diagnosis) the mastectomy is the best and safest choice.
Thank you for doing this post!
Have a wonderful weekend!


This was the most enlightening and most helpful blog on cancer that I have EVER read!!! You do yourself proud, and I know, just KNOW, that you have helped others who are dealing with this in life.

You held your head up high. And it's working for you.

Bless your soul.

LuLu Kellogg said...

God was just not finished with either one of us Maggie and that is why we both are still here!!

YAY for survivorship! I am now 21 years out and still kicking like a mule!


OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

Wonderful post!! WooHoo ~ Survivors ROCK!! I am a 6 1/2 yr survivor of a very rare throat/voice box cancer. Did Radiation, Chemo, had a feeding tube, blah blah blah - And somehow you DO get through it all!! My family was my rock and my friends were my little rocks! Laughter, staying positive no matter what ~ all good things to try and do! Support Relay for Life and Cancer Research! Have a beautiful, sunshiny, happy wonderful Friday!

OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

P.S. LOVE all the colors and pics on your Blog ~ And LOVE the animated Penguin - I've used that pic a ton of times ~ always makes me smile!!

gluten free gift said...

What a beautiful, honest and powerful post. I agree that the mind has great healing potential, and it sounds like you were game to do whatever it took to face the cancer demon. Happy I stumbled upon you tonight :)

Tam said...

Your such a good person for sharing this story with us. I know it had to of been hard but just think you might have saved lives today from writing such a powerful post.
I have sent it to all my friends and told them to send it to their friends. Such good advice needs to be shared.
Like your friend Bonnie From the Kitchen mentioned this should be a pamphlet handed out to cancer patients.
I am sending you a email so look for it. I know your busy but I wanted to ask you a question about breast cancer.

Marla and Steve said...

I'm so glad I stopped by to read this incredible testament to the human spirit. You are amazing and thank you for sharing your story.

I just had a cancer scare and my condition turned out to be precancerous. I see a surgeon on Wednesday so I'll see what she says. So many breast changes for me, from one mammogram to the next. Words of wisdom, do NOT put mammograms off and on your list of things to do.

Buttercup said...

And I am so glad you are a survivor! Great post. I just re-read your post on my giveaway and wanted to let you know that it closes tonight. Please stop by!

yaya said...

Your post really hit me because a good friend was just diagnosed and will start her journey this week with surgery and all that follows. Thanks for giving the survivors perspective and all the great information. I'm so glad you have come through with better health and a good attitude for life and living. Thanks for sharing at a time I really needed to hear it. Even though I work in the medical field, the news of cancer is shocking, and scary and full of questions with answers we don't even have. Thanks again.

Donna said...

Yes, Maggie...I know you wrote this just for me,...and I'm thankful!! I e-mailed you but am not sure you got it. This was so informative and just what I needed to hear. Thank you so much!!
I was planning the lumpectomy too. I have a wonderful surgeon who came to my house yesterday (not a good sign!) and showed me the results of my MRI. It has invaded toward my chest so I have to have a complete mastectomy. The surgery is scheduled for this week.
I have a good attitude and lots of support so that makes it all easier.
Thankyou for all of yours and this post. Wish I could give you a hug but since I can't , this has to suffice...(((hugs!))) Love, D

Pat MacKenzie said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and attitude. Like everyone else, I hope I never have to go through the experience of cancer, but you have given me excellent advice on how to handle it. Thank you.