Not My Mother’s Journey: Part 2 of a Multi-Series

Last week, we introduced you to Heather St. Aubin-Stout, through the first part of a series of blogs she will be authoring for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Today, she continues her story…

November 2007, ten months after finishing my radiation treatments for stage 1 IDC and DCIS breast cancer, I was asked to come back for a biopsy following changes on my MRI from six months before. I had been taking tamoxifen, which was supposed to prevent a recurrence.

“What does this mean?” I kept asking myself. Although I had lost my mom to breast cancer in 1987 so much had changed in that time and mine had been caught early. I knew my outcome would be different, but here I was possibly facing another diagnosis. I questioned my decisions that I made the previous year to only have a lumpectomy and not a mastectomy. What didn’t I do right that it came back so quickly? Was it something I was doing? Not doing? Nobody could tell me.

When the biopsy confirmed cancer I knew, you were never really cured. You do your best to listen to your body, get the treatments that are recommended and make informed decisions, but you better be sure you are living your life the way you want because that old saying, “We aren’t promised tomorrow” sure seemed true.

If this was it for me, as it was for my mom, was I doing what I wanted? Again I delved into research and questioned other survivors, asked for prayers and began the job of making the rounds of tests, doctor appointments and decisions. I felt fortunate to have the support of family, friends and my faith community. I was also fortunate enough to have insurance and a financially supportive spouse. I went to a therapist to talk through my feelings, I had massages, and I exercised in between chemo treatments. So instead of having a pity party and continuing to question what I had done in the past, I moved on. I thought about all of the others going through this, how I could give back. I thought about what direction my life held for me in the coming years. Was I meant to go back into architecture or continue being a stay-at-home-mom to my teenagers or was God leading me in another direction?

After it was determined that this cancer was estrogen negative and Her2neu positive I was taken off the tamoxifen and scheduled for a mastectomy (although recommended I decided on a unilateral-it was my decision after all and my stubborn self felt there was nothing wrong with my other breast, why not keep it awhile until there was something wrong!). In January 2008 I began six rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks and Hercepton infusions weekly. I decided on a tram flap reconstruction in September 2008, scheduling surgery in between my infusions. I began the long road of treatment, again. During this entire year I had many realizations while journaling. I felt that my experience might help someone else. I had always wanted to write, maybe this was a good jumping off point into a new world of being an author.

“I had no idea!” I laugh to myself now. My life changed directions but I was going with it.

Heather is the author of Not My Mother’s Journey.  Her story continues next week.

17 thoughts on “Not My Mother’s Journey: Part 2 of a Multi-Series

  1. I can certainly understand your pain and confusion. I felt the same way when I underwent a lumpectomy and then four months later underwent a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I remember I was so upset about my breast cancer diagnosis, a feeling I am sure that is not unique to me. The reason I backed up and did the mastectomy was not because of a recurrent breast cancer diagnosis but rather finding out that I had BRCA2. I realize that none of are above this breast cancer thing, but pray that they come up with a cure soon. Certainly they have come so far…..but not just far enough yet. I take Arimidex as my protectant drug of choice because I immediately had a hysterectomy as well to protect from ovarian cancer as my mother suffered both breast and ovarian cancer. While I know my risk is much reduced now, from 85% risk to 1 or 2% risk, my plan is to always screen for these terrible diseases. My advice for all women is to get those mammograms annually not matter what. Mine saved my life when it detected my tumor at 0.6 cm big. I wish you nothing but the best in your journey and please keep writing and keep screening. Both are so important for other women to hear.

  2. Heather

    Wow it is like you are in my head. I just like you and so many others questioned my choices when I was diagnosed in June 2000 with Stage II Invasive Ductal carcinoma. I was 39 and chose the lumpectomy over masectomy. I had to have 2 surgies after the lumpectomy to get clean margins and still I thought I was making the right choice to save my breast. I had chemo, radiation and Tamoxifen. The Tamoxifen only lasted a year because I started to show signs of uterean cancer with a thickening and some abnormal cells. I had a radical hysterectomy and took Arimdex for the next 4 years. I thought I was home free; I hit the 5 year mark. To my shock and awe in June 2009 I was diagnosed with mets to my lung; although it is in my lung it is the same dam cancer that hit me in 2000. Now I am in treatment and have been since 2009. I ask myself if I had the masectomy would I be where I am now. The doctors say NO; the outcome would have been the same. I realized they don’t know, I don’t know only God knows what the plan is for my life. Only the Lord knows where my journey leads me. I take it a day at a time; some are good some are not; but that goes for everybody; we just have a different burden. I found a voice inside myself in 2009 that I didn’t know was there; I write almost everyday now. It is healing; sometimes it is raw emotion, other times it is humourus. I just let what I feel and think come out and I share it with anyone who cares to follow me on my journey. You are inspring and brave and I thank you for sharing your journey with us. My breast cancer hasn’t totaly been a negative experience; my cancer has shown me the beauty in people. I have had some wonderful experiences; one being my connection to LBBC. I got to particpate in White House-Black Market’s Give Hope campaign to fund LBBC in 2010; and that was a life changing experience. Imet 24 other women who I consider sisters. We may all have a different situation, made different choices but we have all been touched by breast cancer and that bonds us. Somehow strangers suddenly become sisters.

    Be well
    Lisa

  3. Heather and Lisa, you are both amazing women. Your positive outlook is so so important. I look up to ladies like you.

  4. I’m in total agreement that we need to live life now, because no one, not even doctors, really understands cancer fully. Funny, I’ve often had the opposite regret – that I would have only had one breast removed. It’s really tough to weigh out, factoring in quality of life too. Heather and Lisa, I’m cheering you on.

  5. Ladies,
    Thank you so much for your comments. As I prepare to write the third installment of this blog series, I wanted to comment to you first.
    In the past year since my book was released and I’ve pursued marketing the book more than writing a new novel because I self published ‘Not My Mother’s Journey’, I’ve learned a lot of lessons.
    Of the many women I’ve met via book signings and fundraisers at support/awareness groups I’ve heard many stories. I’ve questioned myself as to why I didn’t get a bilateral mastectomy, why reconstruction was so important to me, and now that I’m in good health, what is it I ‘really’ want to do with this book?
    The conclusion I’m coming to is… a very simple one-I believe sharing makes us stronger, it opens us up to help from others and validates our feelings. I also have found as my journey continues to unfold that a sense of humor is important, to be able to laugh at yourself, I’m trying to do that more.
    Thank you so much for reading this post and sharing your stories! I pray that one day we find a cure and until then we will continue to persevere in our awareness, early detection and being there for each other!

    • I agree with you on every issue Heather. I think it is important that we are there for each other even though every person you speak to has a different set of circumstances. I would love to read your book, can I get it online on my Kindle or is it in the bookstores. Please let me know how I can get a copy. I think everyone has so much to share.,

  6. Today I had a dreaded PET scan. I am past mastectomy, chemo, radiation, reconstruction, complications from radiation and reconstruction and now this…a little sore spot that must be scanned. Thank you, ladies, for sharing your faith, fears, uncertainty and your hope. Although my stomach is fluttering from your writings (and still icky from the radioactive sugar shot today), I needed your courage. I don’t know what the test results hold but I pray that we all face the future with faith, courage, hope and love – no matter where our path takes us.

  7. Will be thinking of you as you await the results of your test. GOD is good and has his own special way of providing for us. I think we all understand the fear that each other feels. Personally, I know the devastation that this stuff caused me……but I will pray for you and wish you the best on your journey. I know the waiting is the toughest part.

  8. I agree with Kathy-the waiting is the worst! Once you know you can either breathe with relief or gear up for the attack….Please let us know how the scan went and know that you are being thought of and kept in my prayers-God knows who you are anonymous…xoxo

  9. PET scan result – NO CANCER!!!

    Words we all long to hear! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

    Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

  10. So happy to hear Annonymous. Yahoooo!!!! I know this stuff is a vicious roller coaster ride. Glad that you are okay!! Keep up the good work okay.

  11. It’s so good to read all of the stories of different women lifting each other up, and praying for one another. I remember when I first logged in last year in Aug 2011 learning of my diagnosis of breast ca +brca1. All the stories of survivors helped me tremendously and now today finished with my 5months of chemo I am truly thankful to God that he used me as an example of what he can do. I pray for each one of you that we all live long prosperous lives. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, & spouses & hey Life is Calling!!

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