(Above: Carol some years back visiting my hometown of Fort Benton, Montana.)
March is breast cancer awareness month. That isn't lost on my wife and I, as we encountered breast cancer. My wife has been in remission for six or seven years, but neither of us will forget that time... ever. Below is an interview I've just done with my Carol about her experience... which of course is really both of our experience.
Carol, what events led to you first suspecting you had breast cancer?
Come on honey.... I'm going to tell everyone on your blog that you found the lump??!! [Guess so, but we'll not go into detail! -- Jon] I did have also have a mamogram scheduled within a couple weeks, when the lump was found. It was seen on the mamogram too.
How did you find out your suspicion was true?
As I said, with the mammogram. This was in the year 2000.
What was the initial diagnosis?
I was in the 2nd stage w/ an aggressive sort of cancer.
If you felt afraid (which seems likely), how did you experience that fear?
I was more aggravated. I was also going through treatments for thyroid cancer, which I had surgery for a few months before my breast cancer. I thought like this: "Now, I have another cancer!" (There was no link between the two cancers that the doctors found.) I experienced some fear, but when I went through those times, I gave it back to God. I had to do that different times.
What treatments for the cancer did you undergo?
For my breast cancer I had a lumpectomy, months of 2 different kinds of chemo, and radiation treatments. To help prevent recurrence, I took Tamoxifin for 5 years.
Which treatment was the hardest?
One of my chemos brought my white blood count down too far, and I had to stop for a while. The next chemo caused some permanent damage to a couple of my fingers, because during the treatment I touched very hot clothes from dryers. I should have been much more careful. My radiation left a lot of scar tissue, which was often (and still is sometimes) painful.
Did some people give you bad advice? If so, what was it?
Some people told me to not do chemo, to take shark cartilage; to just eat health food; one person said that chemo was sin, that I should just trust God. I believe that chemo and treatments given us by science are also of and from God.
How did your family react?
My husband was scared. He pulled up all kinds of stuff off the internet, to understand what I was going through. My mother became a real prayer warrior. I don't think that my kids were overly worried, because I didn't act real sick, or like I was going to die. I knew that I had good possibilities to get through it.
Who helped you in dealing with your cancer?
My husband the most. [I paid her to say that! - Jon] Family and friends. My church and people prayed for me tons. I had great doctors at Swedish Covenant Hospital, I was blessed.
How did your faith aid you in coping with cancer?
Totally! I managed to put my life into God's hands and was able to trust Him with my life. It helped me to have a pretty positive attitude throughout my cancers. It makes all the difference in the world. If you know that this isn't the only life that matters, that we have an eternal life to look forward to, it helps. In other words, worse case scenario, you die and go to heaven, because of faith in Christ Jesus.
Had you taken precautions, such as breast self-checks and annual mammograms, before your cancer?
I have done yearly mammograms every year. Breast self-checks I was not ever real good at.
If you had good advice for other women, what would that advice be?
Have a mammogram every year. Check for lumps, and put your life into God's hands. He is real and we can trust in Him! Also, get a lot of people to pray for you. I am now 6 years in remission and cancer free.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month home site.
Early Detection Signs and how to self check! from N'tl Breast Cancer Foundation.