Breast cancer stories of survival can help newly diagnosed breast cancer patients learn from women who have faced similar experiences before. The Breastlink Angels 2013 calendar brought together many inspiring breast cancer stories of survival. Candie’s story was featured in the April chapter.
Breast Cancer Stories of Survival | Candie K.
Candie K. – Age 63
Diagnosis – August 2003
Multifocal Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma
In August of 2003, I was married to my wonderful husband of 33 years, had two precious daughters, was Grandma to my beautiful 5-year-old granddaughter, and was working my dream job as a Registered Nurse at Disneyland, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My world as I knew it screeched to a halt and I was sure that this was the end. I was plunged into a life full of Doctor visits and many decisions that needed to be made. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I am a nurse, but there was so much that I did not know about breast cancer.
The Radiologist who did my biopsy, Dr Souders, gave me advice that I will never forget, “The women who have the best outcomes are those who are proactive and find out as much as they can about this disease so they can make intelligent decisions regarding their treatment options.” I took his advice to heart and spent many hours reading about breast cancer treatment options. I had a left mastectomy performed by Dr. Michele Carpenter (one of my angels in this journey) with reconstruction done by Dr. Ivan Turpin who is an artist. I had 6 months of chemotherapy monitored by my Oncologist, Dr. Margileth, who gave me confidence and gladly answered the many questions I threw his way. I finished chemo one week before our oldest daughter’s wedding in March of 2004.
Everyone must deal with this diagnosis in their own way and do what works the best for them. We must each find our own sources of strength and comfort to sustain us on our journey.
I have been blessed with family and friends throughout my journey who were my sources of light in that storm.
My husband was my rock and never let me doubt that we were in this together.
My mom was my inspiration as she had walked this road before and shown me how to get through this with courage and to make the best of it along the way.
My co-workers truly became my second family. Several days prior to my surgery, I was encouraged by my friends at work to walk in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. My fellow nurses stepped in to work for those nurses who were walking the race with me. I had no idea there were so many others who had been touched by breast cancer until I looked around me that race day and realized that I was surrounded by a sea of pink everywhere. My friends carried a banner with pink lettering “Walking For Candie” and pink footprints they had painted at work and each had signed. This same banner magically appeared on the wall of my hospital room and was the first thing I saw as I was wheeled in after my surgery. I felt like they were cheering me on and it gave me such comfort.
I attended the Patient Support Group at the Center following my surgery while going through chemo and learned, along with my support group of beautiful women, that I was not alone in this fight. I was amazed that so many of the specialists here took so much time out of their busy schedule to take part in these support groups after working such long hours. I hope they realize how much that meant to me and to each of these women to see that these doctors truly care.
Dr. John West initially asked women who had been through this journey what helped them the most and used their suggestions to create this healing place. I feel like there were so many special angels along the way during my journey that reached out to me and helped me to thrive and truly inspired me to want to pay it forward.
I am so blessed now to be a Patient Support Representative at the Center and able to share those lessons I learned along the way with those who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. I think that if each of us helps to make the load lighter for others and to light their way by caring and sharing what we have learned, that we can’t help but feel inspired ourselves. It is such a joy to me when a patient who initially has been hopeless and in tears on a first doctor consult is able to smile again.
Yes, life as I knew it prior to breast cancer is not the same but has become even more special. I have met the most beautiful people you could ever imagine while on this journey. My cancer diagnosis and how my family and friends reacted to it made me realize what it feels like to be surrounded by people who love you. It reminded me to never take those people you love for granted. I have learned to appreciate each precious moment of every single day and I consider each one of those days a priceless gift.