When I first got the call confirming I had breast cancer I was momentarily paralyzed. The doctor called while I was working, and although one part of me knew what I was about to hear, it was still a shock. When the radiologist comes into the room and says, “We need to call your doctor now,” you know something is wrong.
I was 41 years old with young children, and had just made summer vacation plans. Looking back now it's crazy how you remember exactly where you were and every detail of the day. It was July 27, 2012; I was at work and for a mere second I thought, “Ah, why am I worried? It's probably benign.”
After all, I’ve had scares with breast cancer since I was 25. I have fibrocystic breasts so I am used to bumps, lumps and biopsies. But still, who wants to hear they have infiltrating ductile carcinoma? And, as a lovely door prize, that it had hit my lymph nodes.
When I got home that night, the breakdown began. I was okay until I actually said the words "I have cancer" to my husband. He looked at me in disbelief for a moment and then said, “Okay, We can do this.” Followed by, “What happens now? How far along is it?”
We decided it was best to wait to tell the kids after we had a better picture and more details from the doctors. Then the onslaught of doctor appointments began. Setting up surgical dates, and researching plastic surgeons and oncologists seemed like a new full time job.
Not long after the diagnosis, I became a regular with the lovely oncology nurses at Southern Ocean Medical Center. My oncologist, Evan Naylor, M.D., and I quickly bonded, and I allowed myself to put all of my trust in him. Dr. Naylor prescribed chemotherapy every other week for the first two treatment drugs, and then every Wednesday after that. I was approached with the opportunity to receive a trial drug and I opted in. I currently receive the trial treatment every 21 days until December 2013. At least it's painless and now a part of my routine. I walk in to the hospital and hear, "Hi Bridget, how are the kids? How is life treating you?" before my ID even gets checked.
I must say, my children have been troopers through the entire process. When we told them the news, we sat them down and explained there was a bad piece in me that the doctors had to take out. I used ticks as an example. Our house goes all the way back to the woods so they know what ticks do. We told them this tick was deep into my body so the doctor would have to take it out, and I would have to stay at the hospital in order to be sure the doctors got it all.
After I got home from the hospital, I told them I had cancer and asked, "Is your Mommy tough?" They responded with a yes, so I said, "Don't worry. We are going to kick cancer's butt." They loved that response. I explained the tubes connected to me after surgery were taking the bad liquid out, kind of like how your belly gets bad stuff out in order to keep you well. My seven- and three-year-old could relate to this.
When October came around, we participated in the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk. Twenty of our friends and family walked with us. I explained to my children that this walk helps moms like me kick cancer's butt. They were very excited as they ran around pointing out people wearing survivor sashes. My kids would say, "Wow, Mom, they kicked Cancer's butt too!" It was very empowering for them to see that other moms get cancer also, and bravely face it.
Our approach to dealing with cancer was to avoid the doom and gloom. Why take away any part of the small amount of time they have to be children?
We kept things as normal as possible. I took them to school as much as I could, even if it was in the passenger seat of the car as my husband drove. I went to cheerleading practices with my daughter, volunteered as a mystery reader at the schools, and even flew to Florida for my daughter’s National Cheerleading competition in December. These are moments you cannot go back and repeat so I took extra vitamin C, lived with hand sanitizer, and stayed positive.
I had an unbelievably supportive family, and equally supportive friends and co-workers. I am very blessed and grateful. I kept all of the sympathy cards and took pictures of everything sent to the house. When a bad day came, I would look through everything people sent and remember some people aren't nearly as fortunate as I am.
When January came around, my little guy wanted a new story for his birthday. I used to always make up stories off the cuff to amuse my kids, and this time I thought it’d be special to make a story about him and his adventures with his mom. The book portrays cancer from my son’s perspective, describing surgical tubes as snakes and wigs as a magic way to change hair color. He and my daughter loved it, so I decided to write it down and title it My Momma is Magic. I sent copies to friends with children in order to get different opinions, and it was a hit. From there I figured I would self publish it. Whether the book does well or not, I know it is a positive way for my kids to remember our rough year, and how we got through it together.
Read More by Bridget Wallin
Wallin's book, "My Momma is Magic" is now available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and via e-mail at at firstname.lastname@example.org.