In 2017 I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Laura Moore, and it changed my life. What started out as a client relationship morphed into a best friend friendship and saved my life.
Laura and I noticed that we had much in common as we talked about business and life. I liked her sense of humor, her knowledge of medicine and science, as well as her passion to learn about everything that was important to her, including building a real estate portfolio for retirement. We developed a strong friendship as her real estate transaction wound down.
One afternoon while enjoying an airshow with our husbands, we started talking about hiking. I had read an article several years earlier in a AAA Magazine about some adventurous friends who hiked parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. It sounded wild, adventurous, and daring. I wanted to do it but figured that I was either too old, too out of shape, or couldn’t find anyone stupid enough to say yes to try it with me.
As the afternoon wore on, we realized that we both shared that same goal and agreed (or dared each other) to plan a nine-day hike of the Pacific Crest Trail the following summer. We live 2.5 hours apart from each other, so we knew that training would be difficult because we each would have to train independently. But we also knew we would not let the other person down by not being ready when it came time to hit the trail.
In the summer of 2017 Laura and I got together a couple of weekends a month and hiked local trails in Eugene. She could see I was in pain a couple of times (and trying to mask it) so she finally broke the silence and asked what was happening.
I explained that five years earlier I had found a lump in my left breast. I had a core biopsy of the lump, and the doctors told me it was benign and that I had “nothing to worry about.” I had faithfully completed annual mammograms and regular checkups since then, but the lump was creating severe pain when I hiked, and even on a daily basis in life. I kept telling myself that five years ago they told me it was benign so I just needed to suck it up and learn to deal with the pain. Laura told me that was not normal and that I should seek medical attention.
In October 2017 I went in for my annual OB/GYN exam. I trust this doctor with my life. He delivered my son 22 years ago, and I have a long relationship with him. During the exam I asked what he thought about the lump and what I should do. I asked him to advise me as if he was giving advice to his own wife. He told me that he could refer me to the best breast surgeon in Eugene, but I risked missing a diagnosis on a mammogram if they removed the lump and left a scar. I decided it was worth the risk and asked for the referral.
When the surgeon, Dr. Henderson, walked into the room, I knew instantly that I trusted her and she would take great care of me. I explained the situation, and Dr. Henderson asked me to get another MRI and then come back to discuss surgery. The MRI confirmed not only that my lump was growing, but now I had two new spots in my right breast that had not been there previously.
Dr. Henderson and I both agreed that a lumpectomy was the next step. It was scheduled for a Friday at 11 a.m. I took it so casually that I had my husband drop me off at the front door at the day surgery center and then sent him on his way to go and record his real estate radio show. I said, “Pick me up in an hour, this is not big deal.” I went home and slept most of the day, knowing that lab results would be in the next week.
The next day I broke out with a huge rash from the surgery prep. The nurse told me what to use, and I went back to work. Three days later I received a call from the doctor’s office at 7:30 p.m. Unfortunately, I was at a University of Oregon Duck basketball game and the noise in the arena was too loud to take the call; I let it go to voicemail assuming it was just a nurse checking up on my rash.
But it wasn’t just a nurse. It was my surgeon telling me that she wanted to discuss the pathology reports and she would call me the following day after she got out of surgery. That night I texted Laura and told her I might have an issue. She gave me some of the best advice (which she has had to give me on an almost daily basis recently): “You can only deal with the information that you have in front of you. Go tomorrow and get more information.”
It turns out that the lump was breast cancer. My surgeon was as shocked as I was. She said that we needed to do another surgery called a sentinel node surgery where they would inject dye into my body and then remove the lymph node to see if the cancer is isolated in one breast or if it has passed through the lymph nodes and is now in other parts of my body.
I had the surgery two days ago and now I sit and wait. I’ve met my new medical oncologist, Dr. Lee at Willamette Valley Cancer Center, and I have a meeting with my radiology oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Center in two weeks.
Once the pathology reports come back, then we will know if I have to do radiation plus an anti-estrogen pill for five years, or if I need chemo, radiation, and then the anti-estrogen pill for five years.
Either way I know I will make it through this. It is just a small blip in the road. Laura and I are still planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but we’ve moved our goal to 2019 so I have time to get treatment and then train. In the meantime we can plan for our adventure.
One out of eight women develop breast cancer; I just happened to be Number 8 on January 12, 2018. If my number had to be called, then I am grateful it was called at a time when such amazing treatments are available.
Community and connection are always important, but especially so at a time like this. I hope you will post your thoughts as I use this space to blog about my experience. But I also hope you’ll share some of your own experiences here.
As Barack Obama said, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”