Two Words….

Two Words….

Breast Cancer……… two words that nobody ever wants to hear! Unfortunately,  I had to hear them when I was diagnosed […]

Breast Cancer……… two words that nobody ever wants to hear! Unfortunately,  I had to hear them when I was diagnosed five years ago. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone since then. While the years have flown by, I have lived with a little bit of fear every day since my treatment ended, wondering if I would ever have to face breast cancer again……

I found a large lump in my left breast on November 17, 2011. I wanted to ignore it, thinking I had maybe pulled a muscle or something. I kept it to myself for a couple of days and my husband and I headed to our home in BC that we were in the middle of constructing. I kept feeling it, every 15 minutes to see if it was still there, and it was. I was hoping it would feel smaller or disappear. Two days later I finally told my husband what I had found. We packed up and came home and I booked an appointment with the Doctor. The appointment for my biopsy came shortly after, and I waited, and waited for results to come back. While at work I was finding it hard to focus. I would go to one of my closest colleagues at work every day and ask her to feel the lump to see if she could feel a difference in the size. We went through that Christmas with a dark cloud over our heads. We left for BC with the family for the Christmas holidays. l knew in my heart what I was going to hear, but still held onto the hope of good results because “No News Is Good News,” right?!

On December 29th, 2011, I finally received a call from the Doctor to tell me that I had breast cancer. My heart sank, and it seemed like all my blood was leaving my body. My husband and my daughter were standing beside me and embracing me as I hung up the phone.

There were tears of helplessness. All the while, my little 7 year old granddaughter was sitting on the sofa watching and not saying a word. I looked over at her and motioned for her to come to me. She sat on my lap and I said “honey, Grandma just found out that I am sick, and we are all just a little scared right now” She said, “I know Grandma, I get scared too when I get sick”. We all started to giggle with tears in our eyes. It is funny what sticks out in your mind, when you look back on it.

 In those early days, before treatment started I watched my daughter, my husband, and my son closely. I could see that they were absolutely crushed by the news. I decided I had to be strong! I was willing to do whatever it took to get me through this, keep the fear away and protect my family.

I was going to fight, and I was going to live! I had a lumpectomy in January 2012, and then started 4 rounds of chemotherapy, and shortly after that I attended three weeks of radiation. The support flowed in from everywhere. I had boxes of food delivered at my door from my co-workers. Our dear friends offered me an apartment in downtown Calgary as I went through my radiation treatment. Cards and flowers were coming from people I hardly knew. Friends were showing up at my door to check up on me. I was overwhelmed. It taught me that giving support to someone that is struggling is so important.

I found another kind of support to be very powerful. I think it helps so much to talk to someone else who has gone, or is going through the same struggles as you. At the time of my diagnosis, I heard of an acquaintance who was diagnosed the day before I was. I called her and asked her to return my call if she was willing to talk. We talked constantly and helped each other through every day. From the initial hair loss to the feelings of anxiety and lack of energy. It made everything so much more bearable for both of us. Experiencing this type of support motivated me to offer the same to others and since then I have remained dedicated to helping others deal with their fear.

Then there was my family!! What an amazing, loving family I have. All my strength was drawn from their love and for my love for all of them. They were with me every step of the way. Every time I opened my eyes after hours of sleeping on the sofa, I would look over and see my husband’s face which could not hide all the worry and anxiety he was experiencing. I would smile at him and he would smile back. The first question was always, “How are you feeling?” At that time I think he was feeling worse than I was! That was the worst part, watching my family.

I received so many different types of support, and it helped me get through the difficult weeks and months of treatment. After each round of chemo, my strength would return and things would become somewhat more normal until the next round.

As with every woman, I think the thought of losing your hair is very frightening. The hair loss started a couple of days after my first chemo treatment. It would come out in handfuls when I would run my fingers through my hair, so I decided to cut it short. By the next day, I called my daughter to come and give me a shorter cut, and by the next day I asked my husband to shave it off for me. I have to say that was one of the hardest things to deal with. But once it was off, I started to feel comfortable with my new wigs. We tried to make it fun. My grandchildren would ask if they could wear my wig, so I would take it off and they would take turns running around the house and making us all laugh.

After my 4th round, I rang the bell at Foothills hospital in the chemotherapy room, everybody clapped for me, and I left with such a feeling of pride and accomplishment. I was done the first part of my journey.

For me, the radiation wasn’t as hard to deal with; it was like a bad sunburn. Three weeks later that portion of my treatment was complete and I felt like my life was on a new exciting road.

 I look at things a lot differently than I did before that November 17th. I now realize what is really important in my life and in my relationships. It was painful to watch my family through out my treatment but now we never fail to say “I love you”. I choose to see the positives that came out of my breast cancer.

Recently I got the news that my nephew’s wife was going in for a breast biopsy, so I called her to see if we could meet and talk. I learned from my own experience that you should never underestimate how much someone may need you. She arrived at my house; shoulders pulled up, on the verge of tears. We hugged and she came in so we could sit down and talk. We spent a couple of hours together and I showed her my journal, gave her my books on breast cancer, and tried to explain some of what I experienced. I explained about what she may have to endure if she was indeed diagnosed with this disease. Knowing what that waiting can be like, I told her that I felt the actual treatment was not as bad the unknown. To me the fear was so much worse than actually living it!  I shared how I had looked at treatment; as a task that had to be done and that the right attitude would help her through those difficult days. I reminded her of the excellent care I received,  the Doctors and Nurses were so amazing and I never felt left in the dark. She left my house with a smile on her face, and I think a feeling of power and positivity. Between then and now, she has been through a mastectomy and is currently undergoing chemotherapy  . I talk with her constantly! She is doing so great, and is so very strong. I am going to be with her every step of the way!!

Events like the Pink Ribbon Project are so important for those of us who have been through this disease or who are going through it now. Funds raised for research and resources are crucial for all cancer patients! PRP offers amazing support, not only for those living with breast cancer but for their loved ones as well! I truly believe that knowledge is power and over the past few years at this event a lot of knowledge and information has been shared. Information that goes beyond the basic breast cancer stats and looks at the bigger picture. Information about what metastatic breast cancer is, including the fact that breast cancer can go on to become metastatic even decades after initial diagnosis.  So while I do live with that little bit of fear, I also get to live with knowledge and with hope and that’s what I choose to focus on. That and my commitment to continue to do more for others facing a breast cancer diagnosis, through support I can offer them, and through PRP.  

I am so glad that my family and I have been a part of this event since the beginning! My son, daughter and daughter in law have been working on PRP since day one! I am so proud of my children, and every one of these kids for the effort they have put into this project. PRP is an amazing, enchanting night, and I believe everyone who attends comes away with feelings of hope and understanding. There are  many of us here today because of people like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

~Brenda Shepherd

** Join us at PRP 4 on June 17th, 2017. Get event info & tickets here: Pink Ribbon Project

2 Comments

  1. You, my friend, are a warrior, strong and true. You have shown me how to be a better person. I love you ❤️

  2. Truly inspirational! You are one strong, beautiful person and I'm very proud to know you Brenda! ❤

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