This entry is from Dana Robinson of Bowie, MD. Dana attended LBBC’s Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer. Before the conference, LBBC staff reached out to women for their personal stories and expectations for this year’s conference. During a special segment of the conference, Dana presented her journey to the 200-plus attendees:
I started this journey on February 13, 2002 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 31. On this day, my life forever changed. I originally found the lump in my breast over a year earlier. An ultrasound confirmed that I did have a solid lump in my breast. However, because of my age, no family history and the fact that African-American women have high cases of Fibroadenomas (a benign breast lump) – the lump went misdiagnosed. At that time, I was in a failing marriage with two young boys at home – ages 2 and 10.
My step-father, a prostate cancer survivor, tried to assure me that cancer is NOT a death sentence. I remember him telling me that “time heals a broken heart and trouble doesn’t last always.” I had to stand strong on my faith. The treatment regimen was tough, but I gained this inner strength that I never knew I had. My renewed faith gave me the will to keep going. With the support of my family and friends, I was able to work during treatment and try to keep my life as normal as possible. It was very important for me to show my boys how their mommy handled adversity and was able to overcome.
NINE years later, I reflect back on what my dad told me and I see it as the truth. It has not been an easy journey. I was diagnosed with cancer again in April 2004 – this time Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Then in November of 2008 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to my lungs and bones. Yet another test of faith and I decided to STAND.
In spring of 2009 I attended my first conference for women LIVING with metastatic breast cancer. I was thrilled to be amongst other women surviving AND thriving after this diagnosis. With this group I could discuss my new normal… the ups and downs, treatment options, anxiety, and the fight we all face when we are determined not to lose ourselves by feeling like a full-time patient. I have learned coping techniques, not just for me, but for my family as well. We learned valuable information on new treatment options and other research advances. I have always felt that knowledge is power and everything learned here helps me work as a team with my oncologist when making informed decisions regarding my treatment plan.
I have attended the conference each year since and I am very happy to be in attendance again today. Some of my friends who started this journey with me are no longer with us. I can feel them cheering me on to keep pressing forward. We know that miracles are small things that happen every day. Someone has to beat all the odds while fighting this beast we call cancer – why not me? Why not you?
Through it all, I continue to live by the motto – Live Well, Laugh Freely and Celebrate Much! I am happy to say that my sons are now 19 and 11. The road gets hard and knocks us down, but the important thing is not letting it keep us down. We have to brush ourselves off and stand up again.
As the saying goes, “Life isn’t about waiting for the stormto pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain….Well, I have never been much of a dancer. I just don’t have any rhythm – but I have mastered the simple two-step.
So as we are gathered here today, reuniting with old friends, making new ones, gaining more knowledge and tools to leave here tomorrow feeling motivated and empowered – I invite you to embrace the gift of TODAY with me…shall we dance???