After photographing this beautiful, strong family, I asked Leah to write down some of her story for me to share! This lady is amazing!
After feeling a hard lump in my right breast, for a few months… it started to hurt and began to be visible. On January 8th, 2020 I decided it was time to get into the doctor to see what it was. My doctor didn’t have any appointments available for 3 months; I had them get me on the schedule… but listened to the prompting telling me this was NOT something that could wait. I asked them to get me in to see the next available doctor as soon as they could – it was later that day!
“Could this be cancer?”, I recall asking the doctor… she confidently told me, “No, this is definitely something else and an ultrasound and mammogram with help determine what that is.”
Almost 3 weeks later on February 10th, 2020 it was the morning of my scheduled ultrasound & mammogram… Once the 2 procedures were completed I remember being told that the Radiologist in the office that day would come in to talk with me. He came in… and after hearing his words, “… I’ve seen this enough, I won’t sugar coat this. There is not 1, but 2 masses and these are both CANCER…” the rest of the appointment (really the rest of that day) was just a blur.
February 13th, 2020, I received the phone call from my then Nurse Navigator that confirmed that both the samples taken from both masses were confirmed to be Cancerous. The next day, Friday, February 14th I met my Surgeon (with me was Tyler, my Mom and my MIL). She covered EVERYTHING! Everything that someone may think you would need to know, when someone hears that “C” word… CANCER. I remember it was SO much information, and for me… I felt as though I was still in this foggy dream, which I couldn’t wake up from. Since I was still in this fog, I was thankful to have others there to hear all the information that she was giving us.
The next weeks were filled with more appointments than I cannot even recall. From tests, blood work, tests, scans, classes, meeting more doctors and specialists…. I was in doctor’s offices and hospitals almost every day, for 3 weeks. I had MRIs done, CT scans, an Echocardiogram, a Chemo Port placement procedure, genetic testing… After all of this, the morning of March 5th, 2020, Day 1 of Chemotherapy began.
Based on where the larger mass was located and the size of it, the treatment plan that was agreed to be the best for me, by all my doctors and specialists was to go through 5 months of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy consisted of 8 weeks with 4 treatments on 2 chemo drugs, followed by 12 weeks with 12 treatments on 1 chemo drug. Once completed, I would then look into surgery and potentially have radiation treatments after that. When all treatments were complete I would most likely then have an oral medication that I would take daily for a minimum of 5 years, with routine visits to get scans done.
Remember… the dates I mentioned of when all this took place – this was during 2020. My first treatment of Chemotherapy was the week before “Stay in Shelter” was issued. I was instantly instructed by my Oncologist that it would be best for me to work from home and if that wasn’t possible I would need to not work, until I was through treatment or until Covid wasn’t an issue. So, with that… I had to leave my job. Our 3 girls, who were in school, were sent home to do online school (just like all kids across the nation). My husband remained working, as he was deemed essential. From that point, our family’s main focus was to keep me in treatments and not get sick with any germs! Going through chemotherapy & cancer treatments during a pandemic… WHOA! There were definitely very difficult days/months, but there were also some positives in there, too.
I finished up all rounds of my Chemotherapy Infusions mid June 2020. Then went back in for some scans and was set for surgery in mid August. A month after surgery I moved onto Radiation Therapy. My radiation treatment was for 20 sessions of my whole breast, with a few targeted sessions (that were directly on where the masses were removed from). The purpose of me going through radiation was to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in years to come. Radiation was easy compared to Chemotherapy… it was just extremely tiresome as it was EVERYDAY Monday-Friday for 4 weeks. That brings us to the middle of October 2020… I officially COMPLETED my cancer treatments, was able to RING THE BELL, signifying that I had completed that journey!
Since October 2020 – I have been through 3 months of physical therapy – for my right arm. Due to the lymph nodes being removed… I have been having trouble with my right arm with swelling and continued soreness in my arm and shoulder, as well as neuropathy in my fingers. I now have compression sleeves that are fitted to me, which I wear on a regular daily basis to help heal my arm, so I stay away from more signs of lymphedema.
I have continued follow-up appointments with my doctors every 3 months. I will have a mammogram and a breast MRI each year. This is to continue to monitor that the cancer is staying away.
Looking back… my world (and my family’s) changed in one moment, and will forever be different. Have there been hard and difficult times – YES! (losing all of my hair, getting sick, bone aches, extreme exhaustion from doing really nothing, no desire to do anything… just to name a few) There have been extremely hard days! I’m still not fully back to my pre-cancer diagnosis shape and health. I still have hard days, physically and mentally.
However, I am getting stronger each day & continuing to heal. I feel blessed that I listened to myself and pushed to find out what was going on, and that it was found when it was. I now look at 2020 has a time that God wanted us to just STOP and SLOW DOWN, for my family to truly look at what was important. As a result of the pandemic and my cancer treatments, we dropped a lot off of our daily routines. We found each other again, and have grown to LOVE each other more.
As a result of this journey…
My oldest daughter and I decide to start a business together – we have a fresh from scratch Cookie Business that is growing faster than we imagined and it’s because of this cancer journey (during a pandemic) that it began.
Our family has grown by one more as well, with the addition of our little puppy Dixie Rose. We adopted her in April 2021; she has been helpful in the healing process for me – keeping me active on a daily basis. As well as just becoming a fun part of the family.
I truly believe that I have made it to this point with the help of my husband, Tyler, by my side everyday of this journey; our oldest 2 daughters, Kylie & Abigail, stepping up & taking on more responsibility; and our other 2 children, Zoey & Hudson, with listening, being patient and understanding more than they ever have during the last 1 ½ years. Finally, we have had so many others loving on our family from close by and afar with meals, gifts, service and LOTS & LOTS of PRAYERS!!!