Cancer Survivorship, Side Effects and Seeking Second Opinions


When I got CURE®’s spring issue in the mail; I couldn’t put it down! Now that I’m going into my 10th year of survival from a highly aggressive cancer; it’s my turn to write about my experiences based on the stories in this issue.

I remember seeing copies of CURE® in my oncologist’s reception area; I took the February 2019 copy to read about cancer. At home, I decided to fill out CURE®’s subscription coupon and just got the spring issue in the mail; I couldn’t put it down! I’m going into my 10th year survival from a highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer; it’s my turn to write about my experiences based on the stories in this issue.

My younger sister-in-law and I were diagnosed a few months apart with breast cancer but for some reason, family members wanted to keep it secret from both of us. Neither one of us started treatment when first diagnosed, as we were waiting for different things to fall in place. NOTHING was the same once diagnosed: she had double mastectomy and I had two surgeries at once — lumpectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy. With this issue, I sent her the article, “A Work of Art, Not a Work of Cancer” and then filled out a subscription card for her to receive CURE® as well.

CancerCare was my emotional support during my entire experience plus two years of survivorship. They helped me with all kinds of decisions. I never knew there was controversy over chemo until it became necessary for me to change doctors. My body could not handle “damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead!”-type chemo with my first oncologist. The toxicity, the real word for the polite term “side effects,” was making it impossible for me to cope. My second-opinion oncologist became my new doctor as he was listening to all my chemo complaints. “Patient, Heal Thyself” was definitely true! He slowed down all chemo treatments with lower doses, longer time, changed meds and did all lab work the day before chemo treatment at the local hospital.

Being newly diagnosed with celiac disease six months before the cancer showed up, I had all kinds of stuff go wrong with chemo. It was deemed safer to keep me at the hospital for chemo rather than his facility — a team decision, as I felt safe there, couldn’t handle any more medical changes, and cried constantly! I got the chemo video from the American Cancer Society sent to my email address along with any other educational material I needed to increase my coping skills and understand how treatments work. I’m sure my hysterical calls were a challenge, but their voices and questions calmed me down so that they could understand why I was calling.

My favorite article, “Facing the Downside” is the main reason I’m writing my story. Even as a 10th year survivor, peripheral neuropathy comes and goes. I’m a preschool teacher and on difficult days, the kids say, “Oh, Ms. Judy, is this a goofy hand day?” When I say yes, they want to help me — either clean up a spill, pick up stuff I dropped, or carry something they think is too heavy for me – and they love helping me!

I was forced to give up my position when first diagnosed and lost five years of teaching. Today, I’m back on track: 1) teaching in a small privately owned preschool, 2) teaching for 30 hours a week, 3) seeing TWO doctors a year, and 4) thinking of dating! Life is Good!

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