1 out of 3000 women develop pregnancy related breast cancer. PRBC is the development of the disease within one year of pregnancy or birth. Because of changes that occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding, breast cancer can be difficult to diagnose. Be proactive, be informed, and be aware.
My story doesn’t begin the day I was diagnosed. I had a life before this. I was a first grade teacher, living in the D.C. area. I was married to my best friend, in a beautiful white church I grew up going to, just 2 years ago. We were blessed with a gorgeous baby boy. Our future plans seemed endless.
About 6 months after having my son, I noticed a small lump in my breast. This seemed pretty normal as with breast feeding, they come and go at times. Mothers are known to put themselves last and I waited another month before mentioning it to anyone. Once I stopped breastfeeding, it still remained. Never once did it cross any of our minds that it could be any more serious than a blocked milk duct or Mastitis. I have no family history and have been perfectly healthy my whole life.
Around 8 months post-partum, I finally took my son with me to an OBGYN at UVA. I had two doctors examine me and tell me it was indeed a blocked milk duct. The lump at this point started to become uncomfortable. There was no follow up or instructions on what to do if it continued.
Just a few weeks later, my back started giving out. I’ve had back problems in the past and I started going to a chiropractor 3 times a week yet my pain never seemed to cease. I went on a family trip to Disney World over the Thanksgiving holiday and could barely lift my son because of the pain. It was on this trip that I noticed a second lump under my arm. I called UVA back and was immediately directed to the Breast Care Clinic.
When I returned from my trip, I went into the Breast Care Clinic at UVA and within minutes, the doctor told me it was not a blocked milk duct and most likely not Mastitis. I would return that week for exams, mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies.
That week, I turned 30.
5 days after I turned 30, I was told I had hormone positive breast cancer. All of our lives changed at that moment. December 12th I was diagnosed, that week, I had my port surgery, and December 20th I started the hardest combination of chemo that can be given. I had absolutely no time to process. My survival instincts kicked in. The same instincts that kick in when you’re about to give birth. You can’t think, you just do. If you allow yourself to think too much, it will swallow you.
My son’s first Christmas was filled with family surrounding us and lifting us up in prayer and love. I was unable to lift, hold, or rock my son because of the extremely harsh effects of chemo. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Throughout and beyond this initial shock of my situation, family, friends, co-workers, nurses and doctors came together to support me through the hardest mountain fathomable. It came so quickly and out of what seemed like nowhere. I know the most incredible people and to go through something like this, it is a blessing to have them all by my side. It truly made all the difference.
We continued to hear bad news after bad news. Just when things couldn’t get worse, it did. It still takes my breath away.
On January 22nd, my older sister and I flew out to MD Anderson, a top cancer center in the country. I wanted second opinions and more information to help us fight this thing. We were hoping to go to Lakewood Church while we were there. Through a series of family connections, we were put in touch with Joel Osteens family. Long story short, we met the entire family and immediately felt like a part of the church family. There, we met about everyone in the family. One story in particular stood out to me was Joel Osteen’s, mother, Dodie. I had not heard her story before but meeting her, I believe, changed the course of my journey. Such an inspirational women who 30 years ago beat terminal liver cancer through the grace of God. She and several other pastors put their hands on me and prayed for my healing. My sister and I were in tears and touched to our core.
From that day on, I have been getting GOOD news at all of my doctor appointments. My body is responding to treatment, I’m healing one day at a time, I feel better and better, lesions and lymph nodes have shrunk drastically and even “disappeared.” I am fighting with everything I have, not just physically but spiritually. I actually get to go out and worship at Lakewood, with the Osteen’s personally every few months while I’m at MDA.
I am strong in faith more than ever and continue to be lifted up in prayer all over the country. God is making a way for me when it seemed like there wasn’t one. Through this incredible, chaotic, shocking, hopeful journey, I have been inspired to support others going through this. No one fights alone and I hope that I can bring awareness, love, and strength to every warrior out there. One year later I continue to fight this disease with the Lord by my side every step of the way.