Karla shares the ups and downs during her journey facing Stage 2 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma breast cancer. She found one philosophy made her experience easier: looking on the bright side.
The worst part of my breast cancer journey? I think it was the day I lost my hair. I prepared myself in advance, but I wasn’t nearly ready at all. My advice is to have one or two wigs ready before it happens.
Ironically enough, it was so much fun to be able to have different color wigs without coloring my hair. I’m an esthetician, and I didn’t want my clients to feel sorry for me. Some of them didn’t have a clue I was going through chemotherapy or that I was coming straight to work from my radiation treatments.
I was 51 years old when I introduced the word “cancer” into my vocabulary. When my doctor told me the diagnosis, I was mad. Why me? I felt overwhelmed. It was the end of the world for me. All the horror stories about chemo and breast cancer came to mind at that moment.
“I don’t want chemo. Anything but chemo.”
My doctor explained how and why we needed a plan. I met with my surgeon to go over the next steps. I looked at her plan, but I didn’t comprehend much. The only thing that came into my mind was that it would take forever.
I told myself that I had to trust my doctors—they are an extraordinary team and they know what they are talking about.
My first surgery was a mastectomy with sentinel lymph node removal and partial reconstruction. My second surgery removed 11 more lymph nodes, followed by four rounds of chemo with Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide, 12 treatments with Taxol, and six weeks of radiation.
Then came the side effects.
Ice for my mouth, feet, and hands helped with mouth sores and neuropathy. Fresh fruits, lots of fluids, and homemade pressed vegetable juices helped me build my immune system to try to avoid any complications with treatment.
The fear of not being able to practice my job, not being able to feel my fingers, getting sick during treatments—it all motivated me to follow doctors’ and nurses’ orders. I never missed a treatment. I never canceled my clients. I never gave up. It felt like, “Mission accomplished!”
Yes, it was a long journey, and it wasn’t easy. But I worked every single day and was able to have a normal life. A life filled with lots of love from my family and friends.
My fellow beautiful ladies, you have no idea how relaxing, rewarding, and how much happiness it can give you to paint rocks. Yes, rocks…
I have no talent, but those rocks make me incredibly happy. I paint and look at them for a few days. Then I’ll go to parks or quiet streets and leave them on benches for people to find to bring them happiness. Or I’ll give them to my friends.
It’s a small, unexpected gift that I can leave behind. Maybe it’ll make someone’s day. Maybe it’s the sign they’d been searching for. Either way, it’s something new that brings me joy.
Every day when I wake up, I thank God for giving me another beautiful day on earth. Putting life into perspective is my goal now. I learned how to say “no” and to listen to my body more.
To everyone who is dealing with breast cancer: You are stronger than you think, and you are beautiful. No matter what, every cloud has a silver lining.
National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.
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