Breast Cancer SurvivorFate can be serendipitous and adverse, or both.
Imagine this. A typical mother of two beautiful daughters and an extraordinary son, Bonnie's life was simply ordinary, yet soon to become exceptional. Although her mother was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at the age of 69, she herself had no symptoms nor signs of any such disposition, although the thought of genetics was constantly running amok in her mind. But being a single parent for 17 years in 1992 Ohio, there were present and 'real' parenting issues to attend to, not to mention that sweet reverie of a nice gentleman walking that 'yellow brick road'.....right to her doorstep.
At 44 years of age, she found Larry walking that road, dazzling her with sunshine and filling her heart with honest, contented and supportive love that would prove itself over and over again. Agog with new-found adoration from him and lasting affection from her family, fate would show one face that would be tested 7 weeks later. Bonnie would understand the innate fear her mother endured when she, herself, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Without apprehension, she had a lumpectomy and an axillary dissection, a standard procedure to examine and remove lymph nodes.
"I had the best support system with my children, mom, sister and Larry."
With this formidable support system, her mind became eased and her life became enriched. It wasn't long before Bonnie found Larry on bended knee and her son, Matt also became engaged.
"BUT, in September 1994, I had my 6 month mammogram and a lump was found. Two days later, a biopsy showed cancer again, second primary, no metastasis."
Bonnie continues, "I was devastated and frightened. I got several opinions and after discussions with my family and Larry, I chose to have a bilateral total mastectomy with no reconstruction. This was the right decision for me. Larry had said I was more than the sum of my breasts. "
With fortitude that obviously matched Bonnie's, Larry fulfilled his connubial commitment and married Bonnie on Valentines Day, 1995.
In 2004, knowing the high risk of cancer from her mother and grandmother, Bonnie's eldest daughter Jill opted to take the bold, and unselfish, step to reduce her chance of breast cancer by 90 % by having both of her breasts removed, even without initially testing positive AND with a new man in her life. After making this decision, she had an ultrasound and mammogram done, both of which were negative. One last test was done, an MRI. And wouldn't you know it, breast cancer was discovered. Talk about yet another face of fate!
By April, 2009, Jill's surgeon informed her that her ovaries would need to be removed because of the likelihood of ovarian cancer, directly attributed to her breast cancer. "Jill fought this and, because she didn't have the gene, so she felt safe. The doctor won and the ovaries were removed. The final pathology showed stage one ovarian cancer. This doctor had saved her life." A hysterectomy was soon to follow for other medical reasons.
A shout out must go to Chris, Jill's husband. Not only was he a true advocate for his wife, but for he entire family as well. He played as much of a deciding factor in the quality of Jill's life as any doctor could.
Enough is enough, wouldn't you think?
"In August of 2009, my daughter Tricia, age 40, decided to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. A mammogram and ultrasound were negative, but an MRI showed a suspicious area. When a biopsy was performed, it showed breast cancer. Tricia had a double mastectomy and had her ovaries out."
If there was ever such a family that deserves a tribute, it would be this steadfast family. I am in a haze of reverential wonderment for these brave women and the men who stood by them. To Bonnie's son, Matthew, and Larry, we salute and praise you for supporting all the loved ones around you who were struggling. To Bonnie, Jill and Tricia, we celebrate with you. There can be no more of a fitting epilogue to the struggles this entire family than to quote Bonnie in her correspondence with The Yankee Chef.
"My daughters and I feel blessed in many ways. Surround yourself with good and loving people. Appreciate everything. Hug your kids and your husband, yell less often, tell those you love that you love them. Every day I am reminded of two things when I look in the mirror. I am a woman without breasts , but more importantly I am a woman who survived breast cancer.....We are survivors. We want you all to be survivors. Know your bodies. Be pro-active. Ask questions. Be your own advocate. We feel blessed to have each day and each other and all of you".