Becky Todd

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and then my mother in 2003 and 2012  (both survivors).  When my Mom was diagnosed the first time, I learned all I could about the disease and attended all of her appointments and chemo sessions.  I got to know the doctors and the process never knowing that several years later I would need that information for myself.  I started getting mammograms in my early 30’s given the strong family history.

I had a mammogram in March 2009 that showed microcalcifications which are small specks of mineral deposits which 90% of the time mean nothing.  I was told to come back in 6 months for a recheck, but something told me to dig deeper.  I scheduled a biopsy and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in June 2009.  I had 2 lumpectomy’s (the first didn’t have clear margins) as well as had my sentinel lymph nodes removed which showed trace amounts of cancer as well.  I had extensive lymphatic space invasion which basically means the cancer had broken out and was on its way to my lymph nodes.  A PET scan showed no other spots of cancer which was good news.

All of this meant the cancer was particularly aggressive, so we chose an aggressive treatment which included 16 dose dense chemotherapy sessions spanning 4 months with 3 different drugs (Adriamycin, Cytoxin & Taxol).  Once that was complete I did 6 weeks of radiation 5 days per week.  I have been on Tamoxifen now for about 2 years to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

I worked about ¾ time through the whole ordeal somehow managing to sell and integrate a company into GE.  I tried to keep up with our friends and family and not sit at home being “sick”.  I look back and wonder where the strength comes from when women are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.  My favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is “A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

Back in 2009, my husband traveled for work about 75% of the time.  When I was diagnosed, he told his employer he was grounded and would not leave me.  He was at every appointment and every chemotherapy session doing everything he could to take care of me.  We were incredibly blessed by friends who brought us food each week for the entire 4 months I was doing chemo.  I was too tired to cook and my Husband was trying to work full time, keep up on the house, take care of me and himself.

One of the most frustrating things about recovery is that I am not the same as I was before.  I used to work out 7 days per week and was really fit and I thought healthy.  It has taken me more time to get back in shape than I expected.  I have injured myself a few times over the past year trying to jump back in to exercise as if no time had passed and no health issues ensued.  I feel like I am finally on the right track to getting back in shape, but will probably never be quite what I was before.  This is my new normal and I am accepting that and just glad to be on the right track.

The thing I tell people is to stay on top of their health and always be educated and know their bodies.  If I had waited the 6 months for a recheck, the outcome would have been different due to the nature of the cancer.  I try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and generally just relax.  It is important for women to stay on top of their mammograms, yearly check-ups and be in tune with their bodies.

Becky Todd, Oct 2012