Meet Rebecca. A real life Orange County housewife and so much more. Diagnosed with stage I DCIS breast cancer while still breast feeding her youngest son, Rebecca wasn’t supposed to have cancer. Her diagnosis came at a time when her focus was on her oldest son’s autism diagnosis. Read how she was determined to be done with cancer so she could take care of her son.
Tell us about your diagnosis.
I found out that I had breast cancer in February 2010. I got the call at work at 8:00 am from the radiologist and I swear I had a Charlie Brown moment when he told me. All I heard was ”wah wah wah, Ductal Carcinoma” and “you will need to find a surgeon and let us know who it is so we can forward your films to them.” —I was, like,”Wait, what?” “Did you just tell me I have cancer?” The official diagnosis was stage I Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. My tumor was nearly 6 cm but no node involvement.
That Charlie Brown moment seems to happen to everyone. What was your reaction when you finally realized what he said?
My thoughts immediately went to my kids. You see, I went to get this mammogram because my oldest had just been diagnosed with autism. I wanted to meet our health insurance deductible so he could undergo a neurological treatment that was very expensive. I told my husband that we should get our physicals and all our stuff done to meet the deductible so this neurology stuff didn’t break us. I wasn’t supposed to have cancer. So, this was really an inconvenience! How was I going to handle all the early intervention treatment for my son while I going through breast cancer treatment? Not to mention the fact that I also had a one year old.
I was freaked out, scared, uncertain, angry, and determined to beat this. My children needed me. I was scared of my husband’s reaction, and acceptance of the cancer and treatment, I was afraid of dying. I woke up the next day, went on Google and did research, made phone calls until my fingers were sore, and found the treatment that would work for me, and my family.
Tell us about the treatment you felt was best for both you and your family?
I elected to be treated surgically. My surgeon gave me several options of treatment but with my family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I really only had in mind one option. I chose to do undergo a bilateral mastectomy and remove my ovaries, and then have reconstruction.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments were options, but I had seen several family members experience those and I knew I could not handle it, nor could my husband. I wanted to be better as fast as possible because I still had autism to deal with and I needed to get back to my son. The radical surgical treatment got me back to caring for my kids after a few weeks and it was the option that felt good in my gut. It gave me the highest rate of survival and frankly, that was the most important thing to me.
How have your surgeries affected your current well-being?
With the treatment that I chose, I was thrown into menopause at 41 years old. Other than that, it has been amazing for my personal health. I took charge of my health and well being and for the most part I eat clean, exercise and try to keep my stress to a minimum. I still get nervous at my check ups, but now that I’ve run four half marathons and kick autism ass everyday, check ups get easier every time.
Owning your health is powerful. I know a lot of people struggle to get there, cancer or not, including myself. How else has having cancer propelled you in your every day life?
This was my second chance at life and I’m taking it and running with it. I was angry and resentful and shocked at first but now I am different. I realize the gift that life is and that I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally available to my kids and husband. I am acutely aware of that now.
Do you foresee any roadblocks?
A relapse would be devastating to me. Other roadblocks, like gaining weight, feeling sorry for myself and not doing my best or being the best I can be with the second chance that I’ve been given…those could be roadblocks. I feel like I have to earn having my life saved, so I need to behave in a manner that is worthy of a life being saved.