Rays of Resilience

Despite Being 20 Weeks Pregnant When She Was Diagnosed, Her Mantra Was “Everything Will Be Okay.”

Rays of Resilience: 31 Stories in 31 Days. So many people around the world have been affected by breast cancer, yet no two breast cancer journeys are the same. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re celebrating a new survivor every day. Their resilience is an inspiration to us all.

My name is Pam.

I was 20 weeks pregnant when I first heard the words that took my breath away: “You have cancer.”

My husband and I had tried for six years before conceiving, and now I had Hodgkin’s – cancer of the lymph nodes. We looked at each other and whispered, “It’ll be okay,” and it was. Samantha was born at 34 weeks and I had 5 weeks of radiation to my neck and chest, and was clear.

My husband Tom, me, and our daughter Samantha after Hodgkin’s treatment, about 1994. I had done an interview for a local newspaper at our home about being pregnant and having Hodgkin’s.

Fifteen years flew by and when I was 45, I had my first mammogram; see, I figured I’d done the cancer thing, so why worry? It turned out that was the last mammogram I needed. Again I heard those words that took my breath away: “You have cancer.”

It is definitely not easier hearing those words a second time. I had bilateral infiltrating lobular breast carcinoma. They said it was from the radiation that I had for Hodgkin’s.

My husband took my hand and said, “It’ll be okay. We’ll make it through.” My daughter hugged me and said, “I love you mom. It’ll be okay,” and it was.

Our daughter Samantha and me, right after I finished chemo, 2009.

Our daughter Samantha and me, right after I finished chemo, 2009.

I had a bilateral mastectomy and six rounds of chemo. They wouldn’t do radiation because of the radiation I had with the Hodgkin’s. I started a new job the day before my second chemo. I carried on with life because that’s what I do. I didn’t have reconstruction at the time of mastectomy because I needed to prove to myself that I was still me without breasts. It wasn’t anything that was ever said to me; it was in my head alone that I was proving a point.

After four years, I decided I didn’t want to prove a point anymore and wanted reconstruction, and my husband and daughter said, “Okay, we can do this,” and we did.

My husband Tom and me, right after I had finished chemo, 2009.

My husband Tom and me, right after I had finished chemo, 2009.

I’m an almost six-year survivor of breast cancer now, and I’m an almost 10-year cancer survivor, and doing just fine. It has not made me who I am, but life has, all the good and bad together. I am right where I’m supposed to be.

Both of my experiences with cancer seem eons ago and I am sure if I hear the words “You have cancer” again, they will affect me just as shockingly as they did before.

My life - my loves.  Tom and Samantha, May 2018

My life – my loves. Tom and Samantha. May 2018

You see, a person does what they have to. No matter how you deal with this or anything in your life — whether you become a crusader for cancer, give speeches, donate time or money to worthy causes, or do something else entirely — it’s your life and your reactions and your choice what you do with it.

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