For this week, our third week of October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am saluting another dear friend I know personally who has traveled a journey with cancer. My hubby and I met Michele Riggio when we were leaders of a singles ministry at our church. Over the course of time, Michele became a leader for the youth ministry that included our children! Needless to say, we have been friends for many years.
Michele agreed to share her unique story with my readers this week. May your heart be blessed by the telling of her special journey.
My breast cancer journey:
I was 49 years old, had just recovered from foot surgery and waiting for a rotator cuff surgery when I
went for my yearly mammogram. Typical appointment, but the radiologist said to me, one side looks suspicious to me. He said he was going to give me names of oncologists, just in case. I waited the dreadful few days and got the phone call. I remember it like it was yesterday! The nurse said, "You have breast cancer!!"
I listened as she made me an appointment with a surgical oncologist that day. As I left work I immediately went to find my husband, Brad. We were both in shock! I never thought I’d say “I have breast cancer!!" I made a few calls to friends/family who knew about my appointment and were waiting for results. We all were shocked!
Things proceeded quickly- many MRI’s, biopsies and appointments!! I was numb through all of them. I went from – you will only need a lumpectomy to it has spread to more areas and we have to do a mastectomy. Again, numb!! I remember my following appointment with the oncologist. He diagramed my areas of concerns and then I lost it! I cried like I have never cried before. He hugged me and said we are going to get this out of you! I had many more decisions to make such as; do I agree to a double mastectomy? If so, should I have immediate reconstruction? How will I recover and also homeschool my 12 year old son? I have no immediate family in Pittsburgh and my husband’s job as a photographer was crazy busy this particular time of the year so what will happen as I go through this process?
I absolutely hated telling our son, Jace, as my diagnosis unfolded. I wanted him to know we would fight this disease and, at the same time, give him assurances I would be ok. I also hated telling my mom. She would do anything for me and I knew this would crush her as well.
I made the decision to do a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Of course my surgery was in the month of OCTOBER!!! Ironic, huh? I will be celebrating 4 years this coming October 26th ! After more testing and WAITING, (everything is waiting after surgery), I found out I did not need chemo or radiation. I was so very thankful!! I know my journey would have been very different had that been included.
Through my journey, I had two sayings/quotes that I needed to see everyday; BE STILL and BREATHE! I couldn’t do anything else on most days or that first year afterwards. Equally important was the support I received from family/friends which I will always cherish! I had people praying, preparing meals, helping with Jace and sitting with me, crying with me, and sending positive messages to me. I’m thankful for each one of them!