To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Yahoo News asked women who have had breast cancer or are going through treatment to write about the people in their lives who stood by them and cared for them. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | It was Feb. 19, 2007, when I was told I had breast cancer.
I was just 32, with two children, Adam, 4, and Kaitlyn, 14, and a marriage that was close to ending after 15 years. We were living in Hillsborough, N.C., and moving to Efland.
Little did we know that move was a blessing in disguise for our whole family.
My husband, Kenny, and I had been having a lot of issues for a few years, most of them financial. We had started renting to own a home from a "friend," and things were going well until he unexpectedly re-financed the house and our payment went up almost $400 a month. We tried to keep up, but we couldn't, so we moved into a smaller home. This caused a lot more tension in between us, and it was almost the straw that broke up the marriage.
One day after moving, I was putting a box in the top of the closet and felt something "out of place" on the outside of my left breast. I mentioned it to my husband, and he told me to make a doctor's appointment. Well, I brushed it aside but then Kaitlyn wanted to play soccer and had to have a physical so I figured I'd make myself an appointment too just to see what our doctor thought.
On my 32nd birthday, I went to see our family doctor. As soon as he felt it, he sent me for a mammogram the next day--Valentine's Day. Kenny, Adam and I went to the imaging center at Duke. I thought it would be a cyst or something less severe, so why not bring my son along instead of finding a babysitter? Based on the imaging from the mammogram and ultrasound they all but said, "It's cancer." I was sent the next day to have a biopsy.
We got the call Monday afternoon. My husband answered, our family doc had called, and was told it was stage II intraductal carcinoma. I was in complete shock. My husband held me and let me cry. Starting that day, our relationship changed for the better. I always joked that cancer saved my marriage. But, in all reality, it did.
Kenny never missed a doctor's appointment, which is one of the greatest things about having a good partner during this time. With chemotherapy, you will develop something called chemo brain. Yes, it is real! He remembered all the details from the appointments.
In March, I started chemotherapy. I would go every other week over an 18-week period, nine total rounds. A lot of those doctor's appointments, especially chemo days, were very long days and if he weren't there to keep me company I would've gone insane. We laughed, we talked, we spent a lot of time together, and got to know each other again. We learned to love again because you never know when tragedy can strike. And if he weren't there, I don't know who would've gone to get me french fries. He really was my rock. When I doubted I could do anymore or just needed to cry, he was always there and always telling me we would get through this. July 11, 2007, was my last day of chemo. I was so happy to have that part of it behind us but there was still more to go.
I am a stay-at-home mom, so my job is to cook, clean and take care of my family. I just didn't have the energy to do that. But thanks to my wonderful husband and completely awesome daughter, I didn't have to worry about that stuff at all. Another perk to having a supportive partner is that they understand you just can't do a lot of what you are used to doing when you're so exhausted from fighting cancer. And if ever you need to take time for yourself, it is during this time! My house got cleaned, food got served and kids got taken care of and that took a lot off of my worried mind!
After I had my bilateral mastectomy on Aug. 9, I thought I was a freak. I couldn't do reconstruction right away, so here I was, a 32-year-old woman walking around with no breasts. I thought, "That's a big part of what makes me a woman, now what?" But I was so wrong about that and Kenny let me know how wrong I was. I tell everyone if I had any doubt about how much he loved me this is when it all went away. I couldn't take a shower or a bath for a few days after and I had these drain tubes that had to be emptied twice a day, which I couldn't do on my own. My wonderfully supportive husband emptied my drains, measured the drainage and basically bathed me. If he didn't love me I don't think that would have ever happened. Today, we have been married almost 19 years and are happier than we've ever been. I know that sounds cliché, but it's the truth. We let the little things go now and just love each other. It's not always sunshine and lollipops. But we're together, and we're living and loving every day.
So I guess what I am saying here is there are so many areas in your life where you will need that supportive partner to help you fight cancer and to keep you going. Whether it's keeping up with appointments, remembering what the doctor says, making you laugh, getting you french fries or just holding you, you need a supportive partner. It could be a sibling, a parent, even an adult child but you need someone. No one should go through this difficult, terrible journey on her own; it's just too much for one person. I really like the term co-survivor because that is what you are doing: You are surviving this together.