There’s Still Cause for Celebration

3 03 2011

Fireworks are one of my favorite sights in all the world. Photograph Courtesy of Smashing Magazine.

Today would have marked my five-year, cancer-free anniversary.

What that means is that five years ago today was the last time that any cancer was found in my body, not the last time I underwent treatment.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 3, 2006 following a lumpectomy to remove what the doctors suspected was breast cancer. Indeed it was, though thankfully, only a Stage 1, the size of a blueberry, completely contained, no lymph node involvement.

Chance of being cured at that moment in time? 98 to 99 percent – particularly if I underwent a double mastectomy, four rounds of “just in case” chemotherapy, and an oophorectomy. Which I did. And it worked.

At least until the defective BRCA 1 gene I carry refired in the smallest bit of leftover, healthy, microscopic breast tissue, causing the tumor that wedged itself between my left breast implant and my reconstructed, “fake” nipple. That’s what grew into the grape-sized tumor that I detected on January 9, 2011, quite by accident.

Don, Theo and I had been out back, ice-skating on the lake. We came in when our ears were burning from the cold, our skate blades dull. I flopped on our couch and pulled up a blanket to warm myself. And that’s when it happened.

I brushed my forearm over my left breast as I was pulling that blanket up and over my chest when I felt it. A weird, marble-hard sensation through the sweatshirt I was wearing. I reached down under my sweatshirt and felt it again. Then I called Don over. He felt it. “Was this there before?” I asked him.

“No,” he said.

And just like that, we were thrust into this latest diagnosis, Stage 4 breast cancer. Just like that, our world was turned upside-down. Again.

Don and I, along with all of our friends and family, had been ticking off the days, weeks, months, years to that five-year, cancer-free date that would have been today. It wasn’t to be.

But that doesn’t mean today is not cause for celebration. I may not be cancer-free, but I am still here. I am still a Survivor! And a five-year Survivor at that!

Tonight, I will celebrate with the members of my girls’ group, the Six Pack, at Famous Dave’s BBQ. If you happen to be at Famous Dave’s tonight, look for me.

You’ll know me when you see me. I streaked my blonde hair Breast Cancer Pink — actually, fuschia — this morning.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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16 responses

3 03 2011
Bob Adams

Hold on…you didn’t tell us the color of your finger nails–I’m gonna assume pink.

4 03 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Yes, PINK — PINK SPARKLES!

3 03 2011
Maggie

I think your story is a comfort and an inspiration. Even with this second bout, you’re still a fighter and a survivor. Right now, I’m looking at your blog as a bit of a guiding light.

I found your blog through a friend exactly 3 weeks ago and subscribed to help you reach your numbers. One week later my mother received a registered letter saying there were problems with her annual mammogram. I drove her to the doctor for a second mammogram and sonogram the next day where they found a lump. The following Thursday a surgeon did a needle biopsy. Two days ago we got back the results and she has cancer. Today (another Thursday) the surgeon said because of the location (behind the nipple), he wants to do a mastectomy and he wants to do it in the next two weeks.

Finding your blog feels like a sign and a gift. Thank you.

And as a random little sign, while Mom was at her appointment with the surgeon, I got an email from Susan G. Komen for the Cure debating lumpectomy vs. mastectomy.

3 03 2011
Monica Lesnau

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
– Martha Washington

I found this quote and posted it in honor of your 5 year anniversary. You, dear lady, are indeed a survivor! That’s a wonderful blessing, to be sure, but it’s not the amazing part. It’s always been your approach to life that most amazes me.

3 03 2011
Jennifer Wolf

I’ll see you tomorrow…high noon *insert that whistling Old West Cowboy Gunfight jingle*.
xoxox
Jennifer

3 03 2011
Anita

PICTURES PLEASE! Gotta see that pink hair! Happy Anniversary.

3 03 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

Can’t wait to see the fuschia tonight!! You’ll be brightening up Famous Dave’s!! Looking forward to celebrating with you for your 5 year cancer survivor!!

3 03 2011
Carol Phillips

Have fun celebrating life! Think the pink hair is awesome idea!

3 03 2011
Sherri

Pictures of your do! And prayers to you of course that this second round goes away rapidly. And secret hopes that you and your amazingness will bring back teh 80’s!

3 03 2011
Helene Rabinowitz

Fushia!!!!!!How can you not just love this woman, and we do.

3 03 2011
Pam Spencer

Amy, you are amazing. your robust approach to life inspires all of us to live our own lives to the fullest, and to get the most out of whatever hand we are dealt. Thank you!

3 03 2011
Kate

Wish I lived down there…Love to see your streaked pink hair! That’s right…YOU ARE A SURVIVOR. You keep up the good fight! Looking foward to seeing you at Alpenfest again this year!

4 03 2011
Maggie Stark

Hot pink for one Hot mama! We love you Amy and totally LOVE your spirit !!!!! You are a blessing to all of us dolly!

4 03 2011
Jennifer Fink

Love to you, Amy!

4 03 2011
Linda Stanislawski

Life is surely something to be celebrated, every day! Have a wonderful time with your friends! Blessings to you.

6 03 2011
nancyspoint

You share quite a story here! I, too, have had a cancer diagnosis and a bilateral. I am also BRCA positive. I blog as well at http://www.nancyspoint. Good luck with things and keep up your fiestiness!

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