As difficult as my cancer journey was, there were a lot of good things that came out of it. Cancer changed my life. It changed my perspective. It showed me what is truly important and valuable in life.
October 13, 2017 was the day that four words changed my life forever. That was the day I heard a nurse say, “You have breast cancer.” I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2B, hormone-receptor positive, and HER2-negative breast cancer. My tumor was in an uncommon spot at a high traffic intersection of blood and lymph vessels with lots of places for the cancer to run and it had begun to micrometastize into the sentinel lymph nodes.
My oncologist told me that if I didn’t do the aggressive treatment plan that he designed for me that I would die within a year. That is the day I put on my boxing gloves and entered the ring for the fight of my life, which was the fight for my life. Despite the grim prognosis, I never gave up hope throughout treatment.
My faith remained steadfast and unwavering. I knew my God was bigger than my cancer.
I was immediately thrown into a whirlwind of surgeries, bloodwork, scans, tests, doctor appointments, and treatments. My life became consumed by cancer and the fight against it. I spent five months receiving chemo treatments and two months of daily radiation treatments.
The oncology nurses told me they never saw anyone smile and laugh as much as I did through treatments. They were curious to know why. My answer was because I had hope and the joy of the Lord was my strength. There were days where I cried and felt like it was all just too much. I took it one day at a time, and a lot of days I had to take it one minute at a time. In the difficult struggles during treatment, I set a time limit and allowed myself to feel whatever emotion I felt, and I allowed myself to express it whichever way I needed to. Then when the allotted time was up, I forced myself to find the positives, dusted myself off, and made a game plan to get through the difficulty.
As difficult as my cancer journey was, there were a lot of good things that came out of it. Cancer changed my life. It changed my perspective. It showed me what is truly important and valuable in life. It helped me to see that all the things I worried about before cancer really wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Cancer gave me an appreciation for the little things in life and showed me that those little things are really the big things. It showed me that I have more inner strength than I ever realized I had — I just had to dig deep to find it.
Going through cancer deepened my faith. I had to completely rely on my faith to get through each day. It also brought me closer to my family, especially to my older sisters.
I started a ministry called Boxes of Hope which sends care packages, fabric face masks, mastectomy pillows, mastectomy drain aprons, and port pillows free to women who are currently going through treatments for breast cancer. We also provide fabric face masks for free to cancer centers and children’s hospitals.
I pray for each recipient of a Boxes of Hope care package. I have formed friendships with some of the ladies who received my care packages. It is an honor and a blessing to walk alongside these women offering hope and encouragement to let them know they’re not alone in their cancer journeys.
Traci Fotorny is a breast cancer survivor and lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and their two adult sons. Fotorny is the founder of Boxes of Hope Ministries. Email Fotorny at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her on Facebook at facebook.com/PinkBoxesOfHope to request a care package or to donate.