I was connected with Candace via the Young Survival Coalition San Diego Facebook group. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I am 32 years old and recently diagnosed with stage 2 grade 3 Triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. The lump was palpated by my doctor at a routine annual exam, I had never noticed it but of course as soon as he pointed it out to me, I couldn’t stop feeling it. After that, I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and finally a biopsy confirming C. I couldn’t have been more caught off guard – I had no known family history of breast cancer (I now know my paternal aunt had BC at 39). Genetic testing showed that I’m BRCA1+.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I’m an ER nurse, mama of 2 (Maribel 4, Benjamin 20 months), my husband is a cop, we’ve been married 7 years.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
The worst. That I was going to die, that I wouldn’t see my kids promote out of elementary school, let alone graduate high school, get married, I’d never be a grandma. I worried about how my husband would be as a single parent, what kind of woman would he pick to be their step mother. I obsessed over these thoughts for 2 or 3 days, but since then I really work to not think about the worst case scenario because it isn’t productive and nothing good comes from it.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Focusing on the positive, trying to maintain normalcy, playing with my babies. I know even on my bad days, I need to get myself up and out of the house for a while (even just a trip to the grocery store) otherwise by the end of the day I feel very down. I love going to Disneyland 🙂
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
I have an amazing support system. My husband is amazing, he is my best friend and such an amazing father to our kids. We have lots of family near by that are helpful and available to help with the kids, our friends are consistently checking on us, supporting us with kindness, friendship, meals, gifts, etc. My husband’s department even created an emergency PTO bank and his coworkers donated 6months of PTO for him and always encourage him to take whatever time he needs, whenever he wants it, and have told him if it runs out they’ll donate more. Honestly, the most helpful support I have is from complete strangers I’ve met online because my friends and family love me but they’re scared and also feel sorry for me and I feel like sometimes I have to support them as much as they’re supporting me. Meeting and talking with other women who have been through this and can tell me what to expect and just reassure me that it isn’t a death sentence and there is life after cancer has made such a huge difference.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I’m currently in treatment, I finish chemo in December and then after that have a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and hysterectomy to look forward to. I sometimes wish I could just close my eyes and wake up in a year from now, but then I think about all the good things I’d miss in that year too. I hate cancer, I hate chemo, I hate this entire process but I’m grateful it’s going to give me more time with my family and that’s really all that matters.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
I don’t know about lasting, currently I’m dealing with baldness and eye sensitivity. Hoping they both don’t last.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
Just go kick this cancer’s ass!! I’m looking forward to getting through all this and getting back to work, I really love my job but I know it’s safer not working during chemo. I’m also looking forward to taking some trips next summer, not sure where yet but at least one with kids, and one without.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Cancer is only a chapter in my life, not the story.
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
I knew I was going to lose my hair. Prior to shaving it, I was showing Maribel pictures of women online and trying to encourage her to find them beautiful but she just kept telling me they were ugly. She cried when I told her I was going to cut my hair, she said I wouldn’t be beautiful and we wouldn’t be twins anymore (I frequently styled our hair the same). When the day came, I took her and my son with me to the hair salon so that they wouldn’t be shocked or not recognize me when I got home. She actually took it a lot better than I thought she would. She’s gotten used to it now, and she says now Daddy and I are twins.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I hope that my story encourages women to be more familiar with their bodies, to actually know their breasts and be able to identify irregularities. And, if/when the big C shows up in your life, it doesn’t mean you stop living. I’m still a wife, friend, and mother. Keep doing the things you love, don’t stop being you.