Survivor Stories: Stephanie – ‘I Was Stage 3a…’
With 'Cans for a Cure 2016' starting in just days, we wanted to highlight another survivor of breast cancer. Meet Stephanie...
The day my youngest son started kindergarten, I met with my PCP to show her the lump I had found in my breast, after dreaming that I had breast cancer. She was concerned and scheduled a mammogram for the following day at Mercy Hospital. It was the mammo, that turned into an ultrasound, that turned into a biopsy. Four days later I had a voicemail from my breast surgeon, asking me to call her on her cellphone- no matter how late it was, so that she could give me the results. My heart sank, and a little while later I was told "you have breast cancer". I was 40 years old, 3 years younger than my mother and her sister had been when they were initially diagnosed with breast cancer. My aunt, 30 years later, has never had a recurrence; whereas my mother's breast cancer metastasized the year she turned 50, taking her life at 51.
I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, called triple negative because it is not "fed" by hormones. It had spread to my lymph nodes, and due to the large size of the tumor I was stage 3a. The scariest moments of the entire experience mostly came during the diagnosing stage, as the PET scan showed the possibility that the cancer had metastasized to other parts of my body. Thankfully, the results did not indicate metastasis, and I underwent 5 months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and 5 and 1/2 weeks of daily radiation. The day my youngest son finished kindergarten was my final radiation treatment. You might say it was my school year project.
Being diagnosed with cancer brings a multitude of thoughts and feelings. I worried how this would effect my children, especially as they knew my mother had died from breast cancer. We had an amazing support system of friends and family, which made the process much more bearable. However, one of the biggest surprises for me personally was this deep sense of peace that I felt, intermixed with the shock, fear, and sadness. I felt peaceful because that question that had rumbled around in my psyche for 20 years- will I get cancer?- had finally been answered. And deep inside I knew that somehow this experience would be transformative, which helped me remain resilient through the highs and lows of cancer treatment.
As an art therapist, I knew that the emotional recovery from cancer was going to be a challenge. As I healed, I thought about how I could use my personal and professional experience to help others heal their body, mind, spirit, and self after facing a life threatening illness. I started Creative Transformations, to help address the survivorship needs. Through Creative Transformations, I am offering workshops, individual sessions on how to use art and meditation to heal, and I am writing a weekly blog. People can sign up to receive the blog via the website, as well as find links to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.
On October 19th, at the Cancer Community Center, I will have an art show/talk titled "A breast cancer story through art". This free event will show the art pieces I have made to process my experience and share tips on how anyone can benefit from using art to heal. Pre-registration is recommended:
Thank you Stephanie. Our goal is 1 million bottles and cans turned into $50,000 for the Maine Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Community Center. We gladly do it to support those in the fight and for those that have made it to the other side...