In May of 2004 I found a pea sized lump under my arm while taking a bath. I knew something wasn’t quite right, so I called the breast center to make an appointment for a mammogram the next day. The mammogram didn’t show anything but an ultrasound revealed a growth under my left nipple and confirmed what I felt under my arm. The next procedure was a needle biopsy. I will never forget the moment when my doctor told me I had cancer. Grade III Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I couldn’t believe it was me.
It was then, that my life changed forever.
Within two weeks of the diagnosis, I had a lumpectomy, followed by a second surgery to remove thirteen lymph nodes under my arm. Shortly after the surgeries were four months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation. I made the best of my hair loss by trying on different hairstyles. I bought several wigs of different colors and the hot pink wig was my favorite.
My mom lost her battle to cancer just one week before I was given the news I was Stage IV (that’s really bad). I had a PET scan that showed the cancer had spread to my pelvis and lungs. I was devastated but I was determined to do everything possible to beat this thing even after being told I had only a 25% chance of survival after five years. Cancer just took my mother and I wasn’t going to let it take me!
After radiation, I started taking Tamoxifen, a drug that works to keep cancer away for many women who have my type of cancer. I did everything I could including alternative therapies, prayer and meditation to get the cancer out of my body. I even got mad at the cancer and named it the “Bitch”. I visualized killing the enemy lurking inside me every day and told myself that Cancer is stupid because it kills it’s host.
I started to do everything I had put off such as going on a cruise, dancing every day, moving to Arizona and folding more than a thousand cranes. Life is short, after all.
Six months after I had started the healing journey, I had a follow-up PET scan and the results showed that the cancer was gone. My oncologist told me that that the Tamoxifen must be working. I now believe that it was a power inside of me and the love and prayers of my friends and family that helped beat the “Bitch”.
My name is Karen Elaine and I am a cancer warrior.