Battle Goddess: Leslie Jones

Meet Leslie Jones. A busy mom battling a family history of breast cancer. When her head told her it was nothing, her gut told her something else. Read and share.

leslie-jones

Tell us about your diagnosis.

I felt a lump in my left breast while I was pregnant with my daughter in 2009. My mother was instrumental in getting me in with a doctor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. I was fortunate at that time that it was just a cyst and not cancer, however my doctor convinced me that it would be a good idea to have the BRCA genetic testing done since my mom had breast cancer at age 27 and I was considered high risk. The results revealed that I was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation.

About two years later, I felt another small lump in the same breast. At the time, my marriage was falling apart and I was a full-time stay-at-home mom of four. I knew I should have gone to my doctor about it, but kept telling myself that it was just like the other one years before. “Just a cyst” and “No big deal.” Even though I kept telling myself this, I knew deep down it was something more than that but I ignored it.

My husband encouraged me to go to the doctor, but I was bull headed and refused. He said, “Well, if you don’t care about your life, then what can I do,” and I swept it under the rug. Looking back now, I know he was trying to tell me that my life was worth living and that I should pursue having this new lump looked at.

I eventually was diagnosed with stage IV ER/PR+ breast cancer. There was breast cancer found in my sternum as well.

Tell me about your treatment.

I underwent a six cycle regimen of chemotherapy which included the usual suspects: Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Taxotere. Followed by a few more rounds of Carboplatin and Cysplatin.  After chemo was complete, I had a double mastectomy and a full hysterectomy because of the BRCA1 gene mutation. I had to wait for the scar to heal to start radiation treatment but eventually completed 28 consecutive daily treatments.

Our bodies go through so much trauma during treatment. Tell me about your self-image through all of this.

My body image has changed so much. I have no boobs, however the good news is my hair has finally grown back. My eyebrows and eyelashes are still lacking. I’ve gained a ton of weight partly due to the hysterectomy and partly do to over compensating for the foods I was not able to enjoy while on chemo. The crowns on my teeth have fallen out, which now means I have to have dentures. I don’t feel like me and I struggle with how to be happy with who I am now.

Your feelings are not uncommon and I am 100% certain every single woman who submitted a story will attest to this. You’re in a critical part of your recovery right now and like Becca Smith wrote, I agree that most of us deal with a little PTSD after this kind of life altering diagnosis. 

Are there any positives (and I almost cringe asking that because, ugh…cancer!) from any of this?

It’s really difficult to answer this question because I still don’t know exactly how I am moving forward in my life. I do know that my marriage and family are important to me. Finding a career path is important to me even though I haven’t found one yet. Everyone tells me what a positive attitude I have when I speak about my cancer experience, but let me tell you I wasn’t so positive while I was going through it.

I never realized how walking through Sam’s Club would be such a big deal to me. Last year, I had to ride one of those scooters, and now I can walk the entire store and walk on the treadmill for two miles. There were times during chemo I wanted to give up, and I know now that I am strong enough to do it again if I have to. Before, I took my family for granted, and now I know how much they love me and are there for me no matter what.

Beyond personal challenges, are there others?

The fear of the unknown and stressing over financial matters is very difficult to overcome. I am constantly reminded of what I can’t do because of what my body has been through the past couple of years, and the fact I have to wait to do certain things is even more frustrating. My best friend Melanie, doesn’t let me take anything for granted and always tries to point me in a positive direction with my mental attitude! I keep praying there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

10.18 LightTunnel

Leslie continues to battle and will be participating in American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event later this month in Kansas City, MO. Your consideration in donating to Leslie’s team fundraising page is much appreciated.

Comments

  1. Mary Killian says:

    Keep up the positive attitude, Leslie. I hate that we have to deal with the hellish effects of chemo/other treatment AND the crappy self image thing that follows. You look great!

  2. Thank you so much. I was really touched Wendy wanted to do this! I’ve been working out religiously except this week because of dental surgery, but I am feeling better. Especially since I’ve dropped about 10 pounds!

  3. Rallying behind you all the way Leslie! This cancer gig is a hard one but you are proving that you can kick it to the curb. We are forever changed from cancer so I say take your time and sift through the good stuff that makes you feel good. ((HUGS))

  4. When I was first diagnosed, and once the shock wore off, I kind of felt this was a blessing in disguise. You’re probably thinking “What?” “Is she crazy?” Before my first chemo, my oncologist couldn’t figure out why my platelets where so low, so she did more blood work. I would have never known that I had a hyperactive thyroid, or Grave’s Disease. Fortunately, the hyperactive thyroid issue resolved on it’s own after taking a few months of medication and I just have to have it checked every six months.
    I use to Hate the way my hair looked before I lost it all. Once I got use to the idea of no hair, my bald head actually felt good. Now, that I have a full head of hair sometimes I wish I would go back to being bald. But the new hair is awesome. It’s so soft and definitely not as straight as before. You see, another blessing. I actually had hair stylists fighting over who would get to color and cut my “virgin” hair.
    As for my teeth. Yes, it truly sucked the chemo ate away at my crowns, but guess what? Because my oncologist wants to put me on XGeva, I had to have my bad teeth pulled and now I have a whole new smile. I told my four year old daughter about this and she was so cute, “You’re getting a whole new mouth mommy?” “Well, not exactly,” I said. Another, blessing.
    Ohhh and the best part? No more large, lopsided breasts from breast feeding four children. Eventually, I will get new, perky ones. Oh, did I mention a tummy tuck and liposuction? I’m not for sure how much a blessing the pain will be, but the end result, perky boobs at age 80. Hahahahaha.
    I figure God gave me a second chance to completely reinvent myself and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do these days. Thanks for the support Dee Anne!

  5. Hey, my fellow Missouri girl! You have certainly been through the wringer, and yet you still manage to find things to be positive about. I’m with you – perky, new boobs that haven’t had the life sucked out of them from breastfeeding AND a tummy tuck have been a trade-off I can life with. And I’ll tell you now the pain is in the tummy incision only. A week or two and you’ll be feeling pretty good! Good luck to you, Leslie! I know you’re in good hands if you are at KU Med.

    • I actually live in Salina, KS…..so can’t call myself a MO girl, lol. HOWEVER, yes, I love KU MED. I really believe I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them taking me under their wings and treating me like I was their most valuable patient. Dr. Sharma and Dr. Mcguinness (breast cancer surgeon) have been amazing. So much so, that I told my husband that I am not willing to move until I hit the five year survival mark! And even then, I am not willing to give up my doctors.
      My sister-in-law said she had the tummy tuck and would probably never do that again. Haha. I can handle a little pain though. Thanks for the feedback, I really enjoy reading the comments.
      Do you go to KU MED?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Read Leslie’s 2013 submission here. […]

Speak Your Mind

*