Mindy Fought Breast Cancer with Both Fists and Made It
When Mindy was diagnosed with breast cancer, she remembers how her mother fought against cancer. Her mother’s courage and strength helped inspire Mindy’s own battle with cancer. From her original diagnosis to a radical mastectomy and through her chemotherapy treatments and the chemo side effects, Mindy remembered how her mother never told anybody that she was sick and she fought as hard as she could.
Mindy made a choice to go through her cancer treatment with as positive an attitude as possible and made sure to surround herself with positive people.
You’re Not a Cancer Patient, You’re a Cancer Survivor
“You’re not a cancer patient, you’re a cancer survivor,” she says. “It’s not poor me and I have cancer. It’s look at me, I have cancer and I’m still here,” Mindy adds. For Mindy, surviving breast cancer was like preparing for battle. She maintains that a healthy fight attitude came in handy for her during her journey with breast cancer. “Don’t ever take it as a death sentence. The minute you give up, the minute you stop fighting, the minute you stop caring, that’s when it becomes a death sentence,” she says. “You could have Stage IV cancer and if you into it positively, and don’t ever give up, your life quality will be a lot better than it would be if you just sat around home.”
While Mindy does realize that the words “you have cancer” are pretty scary words, she knows how important it is to maintain a strong will and network of support. “Every person is different. Everybody hears it differently, everybody takes it differently,” she says. “It’s just surrounding yourself with the right people who are going to help you get there.” She found it helpful to treat her cancer like “water under the bridge.” “It’s something that’s down below and as long as you have the right people and the right tools to get over it, you can go right across the bridge.”
When she went through chemotherapy treatment, Mindy recalled what her mother had endured and that was a challenge. “My mother had cervical cancer and I went through it with her day by day. She went through chemo, she went radiation, she went through the whole works and then she passed away,” Mindy recalls. “And she was fifty-nine and I was diagnosed at thirty nine. Twenty years early and here we go.”
While the cancer diagnosis was scary, and Mindy was worried about the side effects of chemotherapy treatment, having seen her mother get very sick during her treatments, Mindy had an added incentive to fightthrough it all: She was going to have a grand-daughter soon. “My daughter was pregnant and all I could think of was, oh gosh, I have cancer. I’ve got it and twenty years early. What am I going to do to break this cycle so that my daughter doesn’t have to worry about it?” And Mindy wanted to see her first grandchild. “I wanted to be there for the birth of it,” she says.” “I wasn’t going to let anything get me down yet, so I just fought it with two fists going and made it.”
Seeing her mother bravely go through her cancer treatments, Mindy wanted to be a strong role model for her daughter as well. But she also wanted to make sure that her daughter didn’t have to worry about possibly being predisposed to inheriting a cancer gene from her. She did want to break the cancer cycle. Knowing that she was soon going to have a granddaughter, Mindy wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a gene that would possibly pass on cancer to her daughter or granddaughter. She opted to do gene testing and found out that she didn’t have such a gene.
Going Through Cancer Treatment
Going through her chemotherapy treatments, Mindy had her share of side effects. Nausea was one side effect she went through. “Everything mad me nauseous, even the movement of the television,” she says. Meditation helped her through some of it, as Mindy would lie on the couch and think positive thoughts, like what her grandchild was going to look like. While she didn’t experience a lot of vomiting, she did have quite a bit of reflux. When she did eat, it often felt like she had something caught in her chest, so she wound up taking a lot of carafate pills, coat her food and eat smaller meals like pudding or applesauce. “Everything tasted different to me, tasted like metal,” she adds. She had an entirely heightened sense of smell, where some foods she usually liked suddenly smelled really strange. And she began liking different, new foods.
Mindy remembers the day that she lost her hair. “I went to go get my hair cut, but I really didn’t need it cut, it’s just falling out,” she recalls. “My hair was coming out in clumps and I didn’t know what to do, as it felt like needles were poking me in the head,” she says. The clippers came out and her brother, who was an expert at shaving his head bald, decided that he would be the one to shave her head bald. “My husband shaved it off first and then my brother cleaned it up,” she says. “And I was ok with it, until I looked in the mirror,” Mindy says. “And I’m like, I don’t have any hair, but I looked like GI Jane. And Demi Moore was gorgeous in the movie, so why not,” she remembers. “I just grasped it and went with it.”
It was summertime when Mindy was going through her chemo treatments, taking Adriamycin, which made her feel warm anyway. “I got hot flashes from being thrown into menopause and I was very warm and the wig I had itched and it was also very warm, so I probably invested in fifty hats and scarves,” she says. “And my husband was on the Internet just buying me anything he could think of that would help,” she adds. “And when it came down to it, I just ended up going bald. I just didn’t wear anything. Once in a while I’d wear a hat if we went to dinner somewhere, but most of the time I just went bald.”
Getting Through It
“Being told that you have cancer is very scary, but until it’s explained to you, like what you can do to fight it, or what the options are, that helps,” says Mindy. “It gives you something to grasp a hold of, it gives you something to rely on,” she adds. During her cancer treatment, she remembers going through an emotional roller coaster. “When you find out, you’re scared to death and you’re bawling,” she says. “And then you’re fighting. You’re in fight mode.”
And then Mindy had her last chemo treatment. “We had a party in the chemo room and I was there forever,” she laughs. “We gave cake to everybody that came walking through the door, so it was a wonderful experience.” And now it’s been over five years that Mindy is cancer free. Mindy still checks in every six months, but the long road of radiation, mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and chemotherapy is now over. “I don’t have the tears anymore and I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life, because I’ve fought the fight of my life.”