Sometimes what defines you is something that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. For me, that something is cancer. Breast cancer.
When I was 34, one of my best friends died from breast cancer. She was 36. Married. With 3 young kids. I too had 3 young kids and couldn’t imagine them growing up without a mom. When I turned 36, I decided to run a 5K for breast cancer in her honor. I do not run. I trained for it and kept pushing myself. I finished in 36 minutes and when I saw the 36:11, I just bawled. After that, I went to see my gynecologist and cried again and told him that I needed to go for a mammogram and I didn’t want to wait until I was 40 when insurance said I could go. So from that day on, I was religious in getting an annual mammogram.
Four years ago as my dad was in the hospital dying from stomach cancer, I was called back after my mammogram for an ultrasound. Luckily, everything was fine.
This past summer, I was also called back for an ultrasound. They wanted me to come in right away but I couldn’t as I was going to Chicago to take my son to college. So in September, I went in for an ultrasound and as soon as I saw how the tech was being so detailed in her measuring, I had a bad feeling. And I was right. I was told I had a suspicious mass, was sent to a breast surgeon, had a biopsy on my daughter’s birthday (and missed her volleyball game – I never miss her games) and while breaking the fast on Yom Kippur with my family, I got the call saying I had breast cancer.
Then came so much uncertainty. I met with two other breast surgeons and found the right one. I had a lumpectomy and just finished 21 radiation treatments. From the mammogram until the end of radiation was exactly five months. Five excruciatingly long months with so much waiting in between. Almost every test takes 7 to 10 days of wait time, during which you imagine the worst.
From all of this bad, came something unbelievably good. I had so many friends rallying with me from day one. Their support amazed me and has not wavered at all. From my daughter’s Pink game for volleyball where my friends all showed up in pink and some wearing “Team Jodi” shirts, until my last day of radiation when friends celebrated with me, they have been with me every step of the way.
My story is not over. Even though I had my last treatment, my body will still feel the effects of radiation for 2 weeks. I need to see the medical oncologist again and find out my 5-year plan of hormone therapy. I will hold my breath every time I get a mammogram and I will pray my daughter never goes through this. Or that anyone’s daughter, or son, has to go through this. Cancer definitely changes you. People say I’m strong but I don’t really have a choice. But my story is definitely my strength.
We all have a story that has made us stronger. What is yours? I would love to hear it. The more we tell our stories, the more we find out that we are not alone. #mystoryismystrength
If you would like to get your own My Story = My Strength t-shirt, visit https://www.fourgirlsonamission.com/collections/my-story-my-strength and a portion of the sales will benefit Family Lives On and the children in our program who each have their own story.
Program Manager, Family Lives On Foundation