My husband and I got married in January of 2014. By December we welcomed our first child, a son. Over the next year we lived life blissfully unaware of the lemons life was about to throw our way. Breast cancer isn’t something that runs in my genes and it’s really not something that you think of when you think of a 27 year old new wife and mom. So in February 2016 when I was casually washing my boobs in the shower and felt a lump right below my right nipple I didn’t think it was cancer…okay yes I did google “breast cancer lumps” when I got out of the shower but quickly and firmly told myself that I did not have cancer and to stop being such a hypochondriac. Month after month I felt the lump and month after month I told myself that it wasn’t cancer.
I was wrong.
On Mother’s Day 2016 while lying in bed with my husband I told him how bumpy my boobs were and playfully had him feel that lump that had been haunting me for months. Jokingly he told me “Danielle that’s cancer you need to have someone look at that!” to which I slapped his hand and laughingly told him to “stop there was no way I had cancer!”
He was right. (PS don’t let him see that in writing I’ll never hear the end of it)
8 days later I got the call “Your biopsy did come back positive for cancer; you need to start scheduling some appointments.” Granted leading up to that call I had underwent an exam at my doctors to a referral to have a mammogram, which I was told they would not do on someone my age, so that turned into an ultrasound that then turned into a mammogram anyways. The radiologist had told me that she was 99% positive I had breast cancer as I was leaving my initial appointment so I already knew the outcome of my biopsy and surprisingly I was calm.
Calm because my whole world was crashing in around me.
I have a one year old.
I can’t have cancer.
Okay let’s make a plan. See I’m a project manager for a company that manufactures semi-trucks so making plans and executing plans is what I do every day. I told myself that cancer would not change the way I live my life. Cancer would not define me. I attacked each obstacle with as much positivity, humor and attitude as I could muster. I consoled friends and family when I told them the news. I made plans for chemo week and did research on all the surgeries. Preparation is the key to not being surprised. That helped about 75% of the time, the other 25% of the time life just chucked lemons at my face and laughed.
Having cancer sucks.
Having a full time job while having cancer sucks.
Having a full time job, a husband that has a full time job and having a toddler while having cancer sucks!
But guess what, you adapt, you make plans and execute them. You learn your limitations and ask for help. You learn your limitations and do things anyways just to prove to yourself that cancer doesn’t make the rules. You rally around the ones you love. You surprise those around you with your ability to tackle this awful disease all while surprising yourself. You see life differently, better. You see your husband, hear him laugh at your bad jokes and know that with him anything is possible…including beating cancer. You see each inch your son grows and cherish those moments that you may have otherwise let pass by. Cancer sucks, but the growth and maturity that it has brought me hasn’t sucked. The friendships I’ve made within this community of other amazing women has been a blessing to me and my family.
In the past 22 months since my cancer diagnosis I’ve gone through 8 rounds of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, 3 rounds of Prejeta infusions, 18 rounds of Herceptin infusions, 5 ½ weeks of radiation, 22 Zoladex injections in my stomach and DIEP flap reconstruction. It’s not over…currently I am on a surgery break until April/May at which point I will be having a full hysterectomy and revisions to my first reconstruction surgery. I’m also currently taking Neratanib, an oral chemotherapy for HER2+ breast cancer survivors who’ve finished their Herceptin/Prejeta infusions, for a year. My hair is growing back and life is resuming some of its new normalcy but I’m still battling. I’ll battle for the rest of my life, however, each time life thinks it’s funny to chuck lemons at me I smash those lemons with a baseball bat and smile!!
More About Danielle
Danielle Cooper is a breast cancer survivor, wife, mama, blogger and project manager in Portland, Oregon. Through her blog Coop’s Whole Kit & Caboodle she is sharing her experience with being a young survivor, mom and full time career woman. Danielle is also a board member of Pink Sistas, a local non-profit that provides courageous women who are preserving through breast cancer with free retreats on the Columbia River. Spare time is spent with family and friends, writing, and selling LipSense.
Danielle is celebrating a year in NED (no evidence of disease) and is hoping to help advocate for other young women who are facing similar diagnoses as well as advocating for more holistic approaches to recovery such as counseling, acupuncture and meditation.