One of our amazing Community Ambassadors, Barbara, shares her personal breast cancer story, including her experience with chemo, receiving support, and finding the positive in everything—including herself.
In 2019, I went for my routine mammogram and got the dreaded call from the facility that I would need to come in for additional imaging and a biopsy. The next thing I knew, I was in the surgeon’s office, learning that I needed to have a lumpectomy. The surgery went smoothly—when I visited the oncologist a couple of weeks later, she said, “I have good news and I have bad news.”
The good news: small tumor, no margins. The bad news: a high Oncotype score of 32, and I was going to need chemotherapy.
By that point, I had done my research through National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website and other medical websites. I realized that if they said chemotherapy, then they meant it.
I was told I would need four rounds of chemotherapy spaced three weeks apart—and they were going to hit me with the “big stuff.” My initial thought was, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to lose all my hair.” That was the first topic I asked about. The surgeon laughed and said, “Absolutely. That’s everybody’s first question.” I went and shaved my hair at a place I had never been before. She cried. I cried. Because I think that’s everybody’s biggest fear with losing their hair: that you’ll look like a cancer patient and you’re going to feel like a cancer patient.
The next morning, I went in, put my arm out, and they started chemotherapy.
Was it tough? Yes.
Was it scary? Absolutely.
Did it hurt? Not really.
When you start thinking positively and you realize that everybody’s there to help you—to make sure that you live a long life, and you get to see your kids grow—then you do what has to be done in order to thrive and survive. The chemotherapy was difficult, absolutely, but I never dreaded going.
When you think of the bigger picture, going through chemo was never a tough decision to make. And it was not something I ever regretted.
I’m here to tell you that chemo is tough, but the one constant I found was support. In others, but especially in myself. Every person was nicer than the next and people took time to answer my questions. People held my hand. People were there to support me. And I grew as well.
Here I am, two years later, ready to rock and roll, post-COVID, post-cancer, thinking I can take on the world. I can take on anything. I always want to repeat what they said to me at my facility, which was: “I’m here for you.”
If anybody ever has a question, I’m here for you. I’m a good listener. I offer good advice. I tell good jokes sometimes. And I’m living proof that you can not only survive—you can also thrive.
To find more resources on breast cancer and breast cancer support groups, click here. If you’re starting chemotherapy, check out NBCF’s Chemo Messages series.
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.