Katie's Tough Enough Blog
My Personal Experience
Thursday, August 27, 2009
imageAs National Campaign Manager of Tough Enough to Wear Pink, along with my sister-in-law, Lacey Wheatley, I wanted to share with you my personal experience with breast cancer, and why I am committed to this cause. Five years ago, my mother, Terry Wheatley, co-founded Tough Enough to Wear Pink - all while starting her own wine company and dealing with the impact this disease has had on her personally and our entire family. This is our story.

My personal experience with breast cancer started when I was in junior high. My grandmother had just had a double mastectomy and I was recruited to stay with her during her healing process. At the time I didn't know if it was the actual help around the house that she needed or just the comfort of having another loved one to talk to. I went with her to post surgery appointments, plastic surgeon follow-up appointments and helped out with her daily routines. I really didn't think twice.

My next experience was when my mother had her appointment set to have her double mastectomy. All of us as a family knew about our future fate with the deadly disease. My great grandmother had died of breast cancer and we knew it was in the genes. We knew my mom had previous biopsies but didn't know about the whole situation until the date for her surgery arrived. She explained to us that is was all going to be fine and I went with her to her pre-op appointment. The doctor was very matter of fact and explained what kind of help I needed to be after her surgery. She was going to need drain tubes cleaned and changed, help getting dressed, help with bathing and pain management.

When she came out of surgery, all seemed to be in order. We were ready when she came home to fulfill our very important duties. It was to keep mommy on the right track to recovery.

It was a very long two weeks. . . Her stomach was not fond of the pain meds and therefore she refused to take them. She practiced meditation with a professional and kept her head straight for her own pain management. She was the strongest woman I had ever seen. She was in such discomfort at times that she needed my help to lift her out of bed, but she still kept in charge.

After the two weeks were over, she was on the road to putting the whole experience behind her. Life was normal, no worries and everything was as she said, "just fine".

It wasn't until I was 17 when we had the next experience with my family's constant "companion", breast cancer. I went to the doctor for my yearly check-up and the doctor noticed there were a few lumps in my left breast. Because I was so young, I was not able to have a mammogram. They scheduled me for an ultra sound for the next week. They asked me how I didn't notice. I always did the regular self examinations in the shower as trained in sex education during high school, but somehow missed that one.

The doctor then did the best thing possible. He called me in the office and called my mom. I was so scared that this was now my reality and was happening much before the age that my relatives to confront it. My mom as usual put all my worries to rest. She let me know about her true feelings deep inside of her own experience.

She told me how worried she was about herself during her first moments and explained to me that in the scheme of life, these were just the bumpy roads. Having my mother by my side kept me comforted and watching her and my grandmother, how could I not follow in their footsteps and be a strong woman myself.

I had both tumors removed in the following two weeks and was assured that they were just fibroid tumors that were nothing to worry about.

However, four years later, I found myself in the same boat. At 21, I had two more fibroid tumors removed from my left breast. The new plan was to monitor me with ultrasound and remove the tumors as they came along. They didn't want to run the risk of not seeing through my screens because tumors and scar tissue blocked the way.

I am now 26 and have four more tumors in my right breast and one in my left. The new question is: do we keep causing scar tissue? The doctors have recommended genetic testing. This specific test looks for an abnormality which causes breast cancer. I believe having this test done is an important part of my Breast Saving Plan. It will give me and my doctors more information to make the right decisions about my care and treatment. I have daughters to think about who might faced with this someday. I believe the better your plan, the better you are ready to handle the situation.

Growing up with breast cancer as a family issue has been a constant reminder to be grateful for what I have. I look up to my mother and grandmother as strong, independent women who make the bumpy road as smooth as possible. They have always been there for me and continue to support and guide me in my own battle with the thought of cancer. I love them very much.

Because I know how much the support and strength of my family has meant to me, and what it means to everybody who is facing breast cancer, TETWP has a special place in my heart. It's my way of giving back and sharing some of what I have learned and what has been given to me along the way. Thank you all for your support.
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August, 2009
·My Personal Experience