Nancy Vettore has stage III breast cancer, but this is far from her first big medical crisis, and she has a great track record for surviving them so far.
The 51-year-old has been through a lot in just a few short decades, including a blood clot lodged in her lung, an emergency hysterectomy, a brain aneurysm, and a stroke. But her positive attitude has kept her going through all of it, serious though her medical issues have been, and she believes she can keep going through breast cancer too.
“My cup’s not half full or half empty. I’m just merely in continuous refill mode,” she says. “My cup has been in refill mode for eight years. I’m a fighter. That’s how (my parents) taught us.”
Of course, life has it’s difficult moments even with the most positive attitude, and Nancy knows going through cancer treatment and other difficult health crises can really take it out of you.
“I can see where people just want to give up. You have to put so much into this fight. It’s exhausting,” she says. “I know my body is broken. My spirit is not broken. I have so much to live for.”
Nancy found the lump herself while performing a self-exam in the shower, as well as another lump in her armpit while shaving. She went to her doctor about it and found that there were actually three lumps all together and that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She started chemotherapy treatment right away but had to stop in the middle of her 12 rounds because of how terrible the side effects were. She no longer has any feeling in her right hand, and she experiences numbness and tingling in her left foot.
Nancy underwent a mastectomy to remove the tumors and the remaining breast tissue. She has decided not to undergo reconstructive surgery, and she says her husband has been very supportive of the idea.
But for Nancy, one of the most difficult parts of her diagnosis is knowing that people see her differently now that she has cancer than they did before. “You can drink out of my water faucet. You’re not going to catch it,” she says. “People look at you differently. And it drives me insane.”
Nancy is determined to stick around so she can be there for her husband and 26-year-old daughter, and she wants to encourage others with breast cancer to continue to fight for their lives. “Bad or good days, fight, because you have so much more to live for,” she says.
“I’m looking forward to my daughter’s wedding,” says Nancy. “I’m looking forward to having grandkids one of these days. I look forward to going on the road with my husband when I get an opportunity. And if I don’t fight this, those opportunities are gone. I flat out just want to beat it and live life. I have a lot of life left and no intention of leaving too soon.”
Luckily, Nancy has had plenty of support from friends, family, and her cancer care team on this difficult journey. See more of Nancy’s story in the video below.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?