I met Kathleen through the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I was 29, married 2 years and expecting our first child when I was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. It started as a red swollen breast and I ignored it thinking I was just getting ready to make milk. I found a lump months down the road which I had my OB check out and she sent me for an ultrasound immediately, which led to a needle guided biopsy and skin punch biopsy, then diagnosis. We did a baseline ultrasound on baby prior to chemo and found cancer in my liver as well. I had one chemo and then was induced. I did weekly chemo for 7 months before achieving no evidence of disease. I had my ovaries and breasts removed and will continue to get treatment for life, including daily pills, infusions and shots every 3 weeks, along with scans to check my heart due to potential damage from infusions. I have had no evidence of disease for over 3 years now.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I’ve always been a relentlessly positive person. I quit my job as a wedding cake designer in Seattle to spend more time with my son.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
How unfair it was, getting to bring a little life into the world without getting to stick around to get to know who that kid would become.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
I think I am still working on that… I try to talk about it but end up putting walls around the problem and not dealing with it. I try and breathe and stay in the moment, remember all the good.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
My family and friends. Some people came out of nowhere to be big supporters, other people dropped out of my life. I try not to take it personally and realize how hard it would be to be witness to the situation. I am super thankful for my husband, mom, and sister in laws. My son is obviously a huge motivation for me.
Many people are unaware that you can do chemotherapy while pregnant. Thoughts and personal experience?
I trusted in my oncologist. I remember the nurse administering it said she made my onc swear up and and down she wouldn’t be hurting my baby. My onc said it wouldn’t cross the placenta and it didn’t. I was bald when my son was born and he had a full head of hair, that was really reassuring to see.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
That you don’t realize how strong you are, how much you can endure, until you don’t have a choice.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
I had no idea about stage 4/metastatic cancer. I thought breast cancer wasn’t a big deal anymore. Got a huge reality check when I was told metastatic was incurable. I also didn’t know there was a breast cancer without a lump. I would urge everyone to be aware of any changes in their breasts and to always get it checked out.
Thoughts on the pink…
I hate the pink washing that is still occurring. We need real awareness, awareness of the different forms, and stages, but more than that, we need research for metastatic cancer, it is the only breast cancer that kills. It kills when it spreads, yet it gets a tiny % of research funding. Wouldn’t you think the majority of research funds should go to the part that actually kills us?
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
Fairly healthy, I’m at a healthy weight and recently had reconstruction. I spend my days trying to make sure my son will grow up to be a good little person, toughest job in the world, being a mom, and that takes its toll, but I am working on taking good care of my mental health.
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
I would tell me to cut off my boobs! I don’t have genetics for cancer, just bad luck.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
I’m passionate about raising a good kid. Before C, I was passionate about making good cakes. I had a few in magazines, I was starting to feel like I had “made it” in the cake world, and then I decided it was a waste of time. I don’t know how much time I have in this world, I want to spend it with my family.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
“Hope always” and “time is precious, waste it wisely”
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
My smile and dedication to my family.
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
I found out my cancer was “incurable” the Friday before my baby shower. I got to open up all these gifts thinking I wouldn’t be around to see the little man these things were for. I got a 9mo suit and wondered if that is what my son would wear to my funeral. The next day was our maternity photo shoot where we had to be all smiles when really we were devastated on the inside. When we got home from that we let ourselves break down. It was a very raw moment.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now?
Life is mostly good… I have a “Metastatic Mom” Facebook page but I don’t update it much since fortunately I haven’t had much to update! Clear scans every 4 months is what usually gets posted these days.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Be aware of any changes in your body, be your own advocate, don’t waste your time on stupid shit.