Melissa at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life
A while back, Miracle Survivors held a drawing for Rachel Pappas’ book, Hopping Rollercoasters. In the midst of vacation, a biopsy and medical and insurance mishaps; I never got around to announcing the winner. Reader Melissa Paskvan won the book and graciously agreed to tell us a little about herself. Here’s her story:
My husband and son had just left that day for vacation, when I found my lump by chance when I felt something along my bra band line under my breast. My heart just sunk, and I was in disbelief that my worst fear was now happening to me. I reacted fast, and two days later I got in for a mammogram followed by an ultrasound. My 2 cm. lump did not show up on the mammogram images, and it was thought to be just a cyst, but I insisted on a needle biopsy right then and there. Another two days go by, and I received the call from my doctor.
I was 41 and had breast cancer. I was numb; all I could think about was my son and now had to tell my husband who just totally broke down in tears. Two long weeks later, I met with my surgeon who told me that I have a rare and aggressive form of cancer that doesn’t respond to hormone therapy and later learned from the Internet that there was a term for it: triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). I knew I was in for a fight and had to be strong and stay focused. I was stage 2 with no node involvement.
I opted for a lumpectomy, followed by an intense cocktail chemotherapy every other week for 3 1/2 months and then 33 radiation treatments. Currently, I am on a clinical trial for Bisphosphonate therapy research study as a preventative for bone cancer, taking two pills daily for three years.
Nearing the end of my treatments I felt lost. Life after cancer treatments was a lot harder than when I was going through it. People seem to think that when you’re done with treatments and are cancer-free that it’s done and over. Put it behind you; things can go back to normal. Only if it was that easy. I’ve been struggling some; the life I once had, there’s no going back. There are so many changes that I had to learn to cope with.
I was unemployed from both of my jobs. The fatigue and feeling of scatter-brain was challenging, affecting my quality of life. The stress with all of my follow-up appointments added to my medical bills debt and was very taxing. Diet and lifestyle changes has been the most difficult to attain. I turned to a local cancer wellness center for support, trying to figure out my new “normal” and live again. I immediately got involved in their breast cancer support group, where I was surrounded by people who didn’t mind talking about cancer and who “get it.” The support group has helped me rejuvenate my self-image and ease the transition that I’ve been going through. All the positive energy that flows through the room during group sessions has such an uplifting effect on my mental attitude.
My new normal is living for the moment: LIVE LIFE! I am now a 2½-year survivor, and what scares me the most is the triple negative breast cancer’s tendency of recurrence, the lack of treatments for it, and the need for more research. I now reach out to other survivors, give reassurance and educate young women particularly in the
area of TNBC. To raise awareness and funding for cancer, I’ve participated in walks for Making Strides against Breast Cancer, Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.