The Moment I Pivoted After Cancer

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I spent a lot of time after my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis worrying of each experience would be my last. Then I had an epiphany.

I loved the month of June. As a young girl, June meant that school was out, and summer fun was to be had. Our pool was always filled with family and friends. My mom was always the perfect hostess.

Until June in 1974.

My beloved mom passed away from metastatic breast cancer that had only been diagnosed the month before. She was only 37 years old. I was just 12.

Many Junes later, as I aged, the pain of the loss of my mother had dissipated and I learned to love June again. It marched summertime in after a cold New England winter. Our toddler daughter loved the garden and its treasures.

In the winter of 1998, we were thrilled to learn that we would be expecting a baby boy in the early fall. I loved being pregnant and treated my body like a temple to give our son a healthy start on life. I worked out before my husband and daughter even woke in the morning. Healthy foods, no alcohol and naps — lots of naps.

I was plagued with fatigue that I never felt before, even during my previous pregnancy with my daughter. My doctor, my friends and family told me not to worry; I was a young, active woman with a very active 4-year-old and a husband that traveled extensively for business.

“Just rest when you need to,” I was told.

I was doing exactly that when I discovered a lump in my left breast. “What the heck is that?” I thought. “Breathe. It must be a milk duct,” I told myself. “Yeah, that’s it ... an enlarged gland or milk duct. It must be.” After all I was five months pregnant.

It was a Monday, and I had a scheduled OB-GYN appointment on Friday. I kept telling myself the lump I felt was nothing. I repeated that at least a million times before my appointment.

I almost didn’t tell my doctor about the lump. But at the last minute said, “Would you mind humoring me and feeling this thing on my breast?”

His expression said it all.

He said that I needed to get this checked out by a surgeon immediately. Like today. The surgeon agreed to see me as the last patient on that busy Friday.

“Mommy why are you crying?” “Kimberly, you have a malignancy.”

It was June 9, 1998. I was 34.

The doctor’s plans were to operate within 10 days to remove the lump and lymph nodes under my left arm. It would be under general anesthesia and my OB-GYN would be present.

After surgery, I awoke to the news that the entire lump was removed and that there were clear margins. Eleven lymph nodes were negative. It was promising news.

Back at home I suddenly awoke to pain, sharp pain every few minutes. I was in labor. Back to the hospital we raced.

Newborn baby holding mother's hand | Image credit: © Thanumporn - © stock.adobe.com

Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her son.

For three days I tried to hold him in, as I was only five months along. “It’s time to push, Kim!” And then he was born, small, but healthy. His birthday was June 24.

On the day we checked him out of NICU, I walked into the adjoining cancer center to plan out my chemo for the first six months of my baby’s life, to be followed by a bilateral mastectomy.

Our family settled into a life around chemo, appointments, hope and prayer.

And then I found a lump in my neck. I was 37 — the same age that my mother was when she died. I now had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and I slipped into “living to die.” Every holiday, birthday and other yearly occasion, became a question of, “Is this the last one I’ll enjoy?”

But the truth was that I wasn’t enjoying things. I was just surviving until the next occasion without enjoying the many days that I should have been living.

Until I had an epiphany. Actually, it was a spiritual awakening.

While praying for more days to live, I realized that I needed to live the days that I had. I wanted to just live to the fullest as much as I could and let God handle the rest and to free myself of the burden of always fighting and to slow down and just enjoy the day that was guaranteed to me ... today.

Today is June 16, 2024. My son, the preemie, will turn 26 in a couple of weeks.

I have endured two more metastases to my mediastinum and left lung. I have been in remission and am finally off of the chemo I was on for over 23 years. I opened a meditation

studio in 2016 to teach others the lifestyle of gratitude in all circumstances and being fully present and engaging in life each day.

I really love June — and I plan on being around for many more.

This post was written and submitted by Kim Green. The article reflects the views of Green and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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