The Strength to Overcome

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By Lisa Kessler, Client Relations Manager at FFR Wealth Team

 

It was 2017; I was 38 years old.  I had a new job at FFR Wealth Team & I had just bought a house…the future looked good and I felt great!

In May, I went for a routine mammogram. I say routine, because even though I was only 38, I had a cyst that had been growing for years and although it had been tested and was benign, my care team wanted to keep tabs.

This time wasn’t like the others, something looked off, but I wasn’t worried. I was 38 years old with no history of cancer in my family.  I was scooted off to the ultrasound room for further investigation into this “unknown thing”, the ultrasound was completed, still no answers, however I saw the worry growing on my doctors’ face.

Next step, biopsy. I’m sure by the title of this piece, you can imagine what the diagnosis was.

On May 17th, 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.  Shelley Funke Frommeyer was by my side when I received the news. And I thank God for that because my mind went black, I felt dizzy, I didn’t know what to say or what to ask, but Shelley did and she got me through that day. I cried; I didn’t want to die.

Over the next 10 months, I endured 16 weeks of chemotherapy, a lymphadenectomy, an oophorectomy, a lumpectomy, and 8 weeks of radiation. Not the best 10 months of my life, but the support I had all around me was amazing to say the least!

After it was all said and done, my diagnosis was: CANCER FREE!  I had become part of this exclusive survivor club, something I never longed to be a part of…but it’s better than the alternative! And boy o’ boy it felt great to say I’M A SURVIVOR!!!!

My body was broken down. I was tired, my nails were torn up from the chemo, my hair seemed like it would be gone forever!  BUT I HAD WON. I WAS A SURVIVOR!

Enter 2020. Ah the wonderful year we all look so fondly on (insert sarcastic text here).  It was December and so far, I had escaped the dreaded Covid19.  It was time for my yearly check-in and mammogram. I was feeling confident for the outcome, after all positivity is key!

The positivity quickly gave way to fear when once again I was shuffled to the ultrasound room to check something that looked “unclear.”  My mind was racing, it hadn’t even been 4 years, this couldn’t possibly be happening again. I assured myself it was nothing, the machine must have picked up a smudge or something.  I was wrong.  The cancer was back.

I will say, this time around was less scary. I knew what I needed to do. I had played this scenario over and over in my head. These puppies were coming off, breast don’t make the person and they certainly don’t matter when they are trying to KILL YOU!

So, it was settled, with the support of my family and friends, I went in for a bi-lateral mastectomy on Feb. 4th, 2021.  I was nervous, but I also think I was ready to say goodbye to the worry and anxiety I’d been carrying around since 2017.

It’s been 8 months since then and while I’ve had to make some adjustments to how I look, feel, and carry on with my daily life – I’m here. I’m here to work, I’m here to be with my family & friends, and I’m here to tell my story.

I WON AGAIN!  I’M A 2x SURVIVOR!

Cancer does not discriminate against age, race, or gender. You don’t need to have a family history or carry the gene (I don’t).  I certainly hope cancer never comes your way, but if it does, stay strong, smile a lot, laugh, and also cry and scream when you need to.

Most importantly, if you take anything away from this – please check yourself, check often and understand that if something comes up nothing is too big for you to take on and overcome!

U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics*

  • 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 13%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime
  • 43,600 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2021 from breast cancer
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer 
  • A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 833
  • In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer

 

*Breast Cancer.Org – https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

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