Daughter helps survivor live through breast cancer

  • Published
  • By Maj. Carrie Clear
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Editor's note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. During this time it is important to spread the message that "early detection is the key." But, once that detection happens, what then? For one survivor, her daughter made all the difference in the world. 

"We don't do cancer."

That's what I told the radiologist when he told me I had breast cancer. "No one in my family has ever had any kind of cancer. We do heart attacks and strokes."

Unfortunately, it seems, breast cancer doesn't care about family history.

I had just gone in for my annual mammogram and didn't expect a call back. When it came, I was told they "may not have squished me enough" and they wanted to get a better look with ultrasound. There was a small tear-shaped spot floating in my breast.

"It's probably nothing, but let's do a needle biopsy just to be sure," the radiologist said.

I was reassured that I probably didn't have anything to worry about, so when I went back a few days later for the results, I was completely unprepared. I didn't take anyone with me because I didn't think there was cause for alarm. I thought he would come to the waiting room and tell me it was a false alarm. Instead, he pulled me into a small room and said, "I was wrong."

As the radiologist gave me the details, my brain just heard "CANCER" over and over.

My daughter, Hollie, had watched her boyfriend's mom go through the same thing the year before so she was much more educated than I on the subject. When I told her I had cancer she said, "first of all you're not going to die. The medications and treatments available today ... " She was my rock.

Over the next seven months I had two surgeries to remove the tumor and lymph nodes, completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and had 34 radiation treatments.

At 20, Hollie shared her strength with me and kept my head above water when it got too deep. She was at every doctor appointment, translating the medical jargon when my eyes glazed over. She shaved her head with me, and bought Groucho glasses so we could take a picture of us with eyes in the backs of our heads.

She sat with me at each chemo treatment and finished my sentences when the "chemo brain" kicked in. When I asked her what the "N word" was, she reminded me it was Neuropathy. We laughed at the absurdity of losing my eyelashes after my last chemo treatment and at the halo effect around my head when my hair started coming back.

Most importantly, she taught me that it was OK to be scared and to talk about my fears. She didn't let the cancer control our life.

It's been a year since I finished my treatment, and while it's a long road to recovery from all of the side effects, I know that my daughter is by my side on this journey and regardless of what lies ahead, we can handle it together.