My Cancer. My Story. by Tammy Vial
I am Tammy and I am 55 years old. My wonderful husband, Dean and I have two children and five grandchildren and I am battling breast cancer.
At 5’6” I had always maintained a consistent 135 lbs figure; so when I started to gain unexpected belly fat in 2013, I kicked my fitness into high gear expecting the extra weight to fall off. After introducing extra workouts and strict diets, I was not seeing results. I resorted to hiring a personal trainer from the area gym. Bobby was truly amazing at his job and really delved into all areas of my diet and workout regimen to get me back on track.
However, after a grueling several months; we were both desperate for answers on what the issue could be. There was no reason I should not have been losing inches and weight. In May of 2013 I made an appointment with my doctor. I had a full physical, mammogram, pap smear, blood panel, and colonoscopy.
Shortly after my visit with Dr. May, I received a phone call indicating that the mammogram showed some signs of something abnormal and I was asked to come back in for a follow up. Being a small breasted lady, I never thought I would be called in for such a thing.
Myth #1: Only big breasted women can get breast cancer.
They completed an additional mammogram and suggested I go to a top hospital in the area for further consultation. During that visit an ultrasound was done. The education during this process was so important. The doctor pointed out that the abnormality on the screen; telling us that if it was fluid we would be able to see thru it a bit, where this was most definitely a solid mass.
After a biopsy was done to rule out a calcium deposit, they sent it out for further testing for cancer. When the doctor shared his concern that it might be cancer, my daughter, who had come along for support, broke out in tears. She was just so scared. “Mommy” mode kicked in for me and I held her and did my best to comfort her, while feeling as though I was in a foggy tunnel myself.
As anyone would, we drove home in complete exhaustion and despair. I just learned I might have cancer what if I might not be able to fight this. I remember calling my husband on the drive home trying not to lose it in front of our daughter, but a huge lump was in my throat the size of a softball. What do I say? What should I do?
When I was alone with Dean, he held me tight and I cried like I never had before. He assured me the test would come back negative and that we must remain positive. We went on with our daily lives as we awaited the news. Cancer. No Cancer. I kept myself busy at work and did as much as I could do in the evenings to keep my mind off it.
Myth #2: You are always hopeful after diagnosis.
I received the call and they confirmed that I did indeed have breast cancer. I fell silent. The nurse kindly asked if I was “alright”. She had just told me I had CANCER. No, I was not alright, I felt as though I had been punched in the head.
“I am going to die.” repeating over and over to myself.
“I am not ready for this…please please, I can’t die now” of course in those initial moments fear took over and I was overcome with grief and despair only able to see my impending doom.
Myth #3: Everyone can help you feel better.
I had family and friends surround me with love and it was STRONG! I am truly blessed to have the people I do in my life. They all offered a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and advise based on what they themselves had experienced. I often found it hard to take advise from those who didn’t “really” know what I was going through. We all have had someone close to us with some sort of cancer…. but it is totally different having cancer yourself.
Myth #4: Chemotherapy is the only treatment for breast cancer.
It is best to evaluate all your options. I was faced with two different doctors who offered two different treatment plans. Make sure to use your resources and educate yourself.
Ultimately I had the lump removed and one lymph node removed which was “feeding” the tumor. I also did four weeks of radiation. For those of you who are unsure what radiation is; think of a microwave and how it cooks from the inside out.; that is what radiation is like. During the process you really don’t feel anything, but is follows with a tremendous amount of pain. I would put ice packs on my entire right breast where the radiation had been administered. During showers the pain was excruciating. It was like putting cold water on a third degree burn. My entire breast turned black and the nipple swelled to a painful size along with being bright cherry red. Thank goodness this only lasts four weeks.
After the radiation treatment was over the “pill popping” began. In my case medication is being used to block any estrogen that the cancer cells may thrive on. I will take this series of medication for a total of five years. Being sensitive to many pills, it took a couple trial and errors to find a medication that worked well for me.
Myth #5: You only need to get one opinion/treatment plan.
I also did some additional research before choosing my path of treatment. I found some interesting information out of California. There is a facility that tests tumors to determine the best course of treatment and to verify if the tumor is hereditary or not. The fee was $800 and it was not covered by insurance. My results were that the tumor could be defeated without the use of chemotherapy and that the tumor was not hereditary.
My life now consists of checkups every three months and a daily pill regimen. I deal with my weight gain from the mediation which has really been a struggle for me personally.
Once you are told you have cancer, it takes over your life. Fortunately for me… it didn’t take mine. I live with cancer every day. I will continue to get involved with walks, donations, ribbons, and breast cancer clothes.
My husband Dean and I even got breast cancer ribbon tattoos as a way to remember this journey and be an advocate for others who have or will fight alongside me. I want to help whoever I can with the struggles that come along with diagnosis and treatment, if only a shoulder to cry on or a friend to go clothes shopping with.
I hope this letter encourages women to get regular checkups and not wait if you think something might be wrong because it probably is. We know our bodies better than anyone.
My cousin who is 6 months older than me has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer very similar to mine. I am proud to know first hand how tough this is so that I can be the best support for her. – God Bless
I would like to give a special thank you to a few people who helped me through this journey. My husband Dean, Daughter Tonyha, my Son Jerico, Grandkids: Terron, Abi, Alex, Eric, Evan son n law Adam and Daughter n law April. My Baby brother Jimmy, my cousins Jeff and Laura Stahl, Suzan, dear friends and co- workers Kari, Jayne, Rhonda, Greg, Al, and friends Dicta, Bonnie, and Very special niece Tonia.
Not sure if you should be exercising during treatment? Find this answer and more by clicking below…
EAT HEALTHY, BE FIT AND KEEP FIGHTING!
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