On New Year’s Eve 2019, what should have been a day of exciting new beginnings, I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. When I woke up the next morning, it wasn’t just the start of a new year, but what felt like an entirely new life – I had Stage II breast cancer.
I discovered the lump in my breast around Christmas time. I had a biopsy on Christmas Eve, and the results returned one week later. Suddenly, all my plans for 2020 changed. We cancelled our family vacation, and I was forced to confront my diagnosis and discuss the difficult news with my family. I was no stranger to the harsh realities of cancer. My mother died of brain cancer in 2009, and this difficult memory made me fearful of my own future.
Having an aggressive cancer demanded an aggressive treatment plan and a positive attitude. A close friend instructed me to write down all my negative thoughts. Together, we tossed them in a fire, helping me to focus on the future and my fight ahead. I had 15 rounds of chemotherapy before I was ready to have my lumpectomy. After my surgery in June 2020, I completed radiation therapy.
While 2020 has certainly been the year of the unexpected, I have been challenged in unique ways. The COVID-19 pandemic presented greater risk to me as a chemotherapy patient, making me fearful of leaving my home. Additionally, I experienced the loss of my brother on July Fourth this year due to a heart attack. Through it all, it’s also been a struggle to manage a high-stress, full-time job, the responsibilities of caring for my children, and the physical and emotional toll of fighting breast cancer.
Despite my obstacles, I feel blessed to have a steady support network throughout my journey. I’ve relied on those closest to me to help me fight my disease. My breast surgeon, Moya Griffin, M.D., FACS, of Texas Breast Specialists–Austin North, just happened to be a long-lost friend. When we reconnected after 15 years, even under these circumstances, we picked up right where we left off. Having a friend in my surgeon was an added bonus. She eased many of my biggest fears and provided me with the ability to have candid conversations about my health, happiness, and well-being.
Dr. Griffin also supported me by referring me to seek assistance through groups like Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) and Wonders & Worries Austin, which helped provide vital support for my children. Before my diagnosis, I didn’t know anyone who had breast cancer – let alone shared the same experiences. BCRC introduced me to women who understood what I was going through during my darkest days. Above all, seeing these women thrive with similar diagnoses gave me hope. When I was struggling most, the positivity of my peers inspired me and equipped me to fight. BCRC also provided me with many resources I didn’t even know I needed, like a pre-chemotherapy checklist, and the occasional phone call just to check in.
While this year has had its hurdles, I’ve learned to have less fear and more hope. Life is different now. I spend more time reflecting on the many relationships in my life that have helped me overcome my disease, and whenever possible, lending advice, thoughts, prayers, and listening ears to others who remain in the fight.
If you or someone you know is facing breast cancer, BCRC is here to help. Please visit our website or call our helpline at 512-524-2560.
Moya Griffin, M.D., FACS, is with Texas Breast Specialists, which is the surgical arm of Texas Oncology.