I discovered that I had breast cancer in October 2009 during a regular yearly screening. What started as a normal doctor’s visit turned into multiple screenings and, finally, a needle-guided biopsy. After waiting a couple of days, I received the results that it was malignant, and I indeed had breast cancer. At this point, my body went numb! I was not sure what the next steps were or how I was going to tell my children and family. As I sat in my car, scared of the unknown, tears began to roll down my face.
I was two months away from my 50th birthday, and I had decided that I was going to have a big birthday celebration. What would I do now? I decided I’m not going to spend the money on a party — I’m going to celebrate living. So, I went on with preparing myself with MRI’s and more biopsies and finally on to meet the surgeon. I asked my best friend, April, to go with me to meet the surgeon. I’m so glad that I did. There was so much information given, and under the circumstances with my nerves on edge, all I could think about was when my mother had breast cancer. She had to have chemotherapy and was very sick, and I watched her hair fall out. I was afraid that I would need the same treatment. How thankful was I when the surgeon said that because of the type of cancer, I would be having a lumpectomy and 37 treatments of radiation with a five-year plan of hormonal therapy. So, at the end of the conversation with the surgeon, he said to me, “Why are you delaying your surgery?” I told him one reason was that I was scared and the second was that I wanted to celebrate my birthday. He responded by asking when my birthday is, and I said, “It’s December 15 — I turn 50.” He said, “Oh, well you can celebrate up to 12:00 am and after that, no food or beverages. I will meet you for surgery at 7:30 am on December 16.” We had a good laugh, but I did as he instructed.
I had my surgery, and it was a huge success. He removed the cancer and 27 lymph nodes. I started my recovery process at home. I had six weeks to recover before I started my radiation treatment. After six weeks, I was ready to start my treatment. My best friend, who had been with me to every appointment, surgery, and follow-up appointment, said to me on my first day of treatment, “Do you want me to go with you to radiation?” “No,” I responded, “I think I can manage this by myself.” As I was walking up to the building, I read the sign on the building that reads Cancer Treatment Center — it stuck out like a neon sign to me at this point! Mind you, I have been going to this same building the entire time. I stop walking, and it seemed like I was frozen in time as I was looking at this sign thinking to myself: I have cancer. Why was it hitting me so hard now? I have had the surgery, which was the hard part, but now I am alone. I realized that I’m here alone, and I need to do this. So, I got myself together, stopped the crying, and went into the building for my treatment. During the surgery prep, the doctor marked the locations where the radiation would be focused and would leave three permanent tattoos. Once I had collected myself and went through with the radiation, the experience wasn’t bad at all.
I will be celebrating 10 years of being cancer-free on December 16, 2019 — the day after my 60th birthday this year. I will never forget the love and support that AWHONN showed toward me during my journey, and I am still here with such a wonderful association after 24 years.
Pearl Thorpe is a Senior Graphics Manager within the Strategic Partnerships, Communications and Meetings Department at AWHONN. Pearl has been with AWHONN for 24 years.