“Breast cancer changes you, and the change can be beautiful.” – Jane Cook.
As October comes to a close, as does the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer is so prevalent in our society with ⅓ of all new cancer diagnoses being that of breast cancer. Awareness must be 24/7. That is not to keep us in fear but to help us to stay mindful and educated so that we can prevent becoming a breast cancer survivor.
Today’s post is dedicated to my fierce sister and dear friend, Cathy Williamson, well known on social media as “The Middle Page Blog.” Looking at Cathy today, you would never know that she has survived one of the most deadly and rare forms of breast cancer, Triple Negative. Cathy is filled with an incredible grounded sense of wisdom, much of it due to surviving a cancer that many women have succumbed to. Her story is one of faith. Cathy is a firm believer in there being a higher power and a divinity in our ability to heal from any illness, no matter how rare or life threatening it is.
As you’ll see from today’s conversation from Cathy, both Julie Liams (you can read her story here) share a commonality that is true of most people who survive life threatening illnesses. The experience will leave a lasting and profound impact on your life and how you see and experience life going forward. There is meaning and purpose in being a survivor of breast cancer and sharing the wisdom of your experience, as Cathy does today. It has the power to save a life by early prevention and detection!
Read on and be prepared to be moved by Cathy’s story and her positive outlook on life as well as her ability to live life in the present moment while being fearless facing anything that life throws her way.
Catherine: Can you take us back with you to the moment your doctor let you know that you had breast cancer? What was that like for you?
Cathy: June 14th, 2013, I was sitting at Starbucks with my daughter and two friends when I got the call from the radiologist who did my biopsy. He was the sweetest man and I remember him saying that he hated to tell me that my biopsy was malignant. I remember feeling numb on the inside.
Catherine: I’m sensing that is a common experience – to feel numb and in shock. Looking back, would you have done anything differently if you had known you were at risk for breast cancer?
Cathy: I don’t think I would have done anything different at all. I still don’t look at it like I had a risk. I truly believe that my cancer was environmentally driven from a neighborhood that I lived in.
Catherine: I had no idea about the environmental risk. That’s good for us to know. What else do you wish for other women who may be at risk to know?
Cathy: I think it is important for every woman (whether there is a risk or not) to pay attention to your body and get regular mammograms. If you feel something, never think that you are bothering your doctor. That’s what they are there for. If a doctor brushes off something that you feel strange about, get a second opinion.
Catherine: We know a lot of women don’t get regular mammograms. What would you say to a woman who continues to put off scheduling her annual mammogram?
Cathy: A lot of women do that because they are afraid it will hurt or they are scared to get the results. Listen, it’s better to know and deal with it than to let it go and grow. Mammograms don’t hurt that much, either.
Catherine: That’s so true how fear can hold us back from preventing the very things we fear. I would love to know more about how your life has changed since your diagnosis and double mastectomy?
Cathy: I am much more about living in the moment and not wanting to miss out on anything of importance. We spend a lot of time with the family and that is number one!
Catherine: Living in the present is so important! Can you share what has been the hardest part of being a breast cancer survivor?
Cathy: At first, it was probably worrying that it would come back, but I changed my attitude and will not think negative thoughts anymore.
Catherine: That is exactly how I experience you! Living in the moment and always positive! Let’s dive into the very rare form of breast cancer you experienced. There are many forms of breast cancer, including Triple Negative, a devastating and rare form that you survived. What makes Triple Negative unique? Is there anything you learned from your experience overcoming this deadly type of breast cancer that can help other women facing a similar battle?
Cathy: Here is a good description of TNBC. Triple-negative breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer.
Think of cancer cells as a house. The front door may have three kinds of locks, called receptors—
One is for the female hormone estrogen
One is for the female hormone progesterone
One is a protein called human epidermal growth factor (HER2)
If your cancer has any of these three locks, doctors have a few keys (like hormone therapy or other drugs) they can use to help destroy the cancer cells.
But if you have triple-negative breast cancer, it means those three locks aren’t there. So doctors have fewer keys for treatment. Fortunately, chemotherapy is still an effective option. I would tell anyone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer, to seek the advice of a breast cancer specialist. If you have breast cancer, go to a breast cancer oncologist. A general oncologist may not be familiar with the right protocol and treatments for each breast cancer. Also, go to the best one you can find!
Catherine: That is really enlightening! It sounds like a very challenging form of breast cancer to treat. Clearly, having a powerful and knowledgeable advocate in your breast cancer specialist can make a huge difference in your ability to overcome cancer. Let’s move into the connection between your faith and your ability to heal. Your strong faith played a huge role in your miraculous healing from a very rare and deadly form of breast cancer. Can you share more about your faith and how it played a powerful role in helping you to heal from breast cancer?
Cathy: My faith is important and what I can say is that Jesus is still in the healing business! There is the best devotional called, 365 Days of Healing, by Mark Brazee. This book changed my life on healing and health. So much of our health is based on what we say with our words. I highly recommend this book for everyone!
Catherine: You know I’m a big believer in the power of our faith to help us to overcome any challenge! Thank you for sharing a powerful reference that helped you. Can we talk about your family and how your journey impacted those closest to you? Did it bring your family closer together? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with women who are following in your footsteps?
Cathy: Our family was already close, but it did bring us closer together. I’m not going to say that it has stayed all “Kumbaya” perfect after nine years, but I had so much emotional support from them and friends during that time.
Catherine: That’s wonderful to hear! We know you’re a mother and a grandmother. What have you shared with your daughter to help her with awareness and prevention? What would you tell other mothers when it comes to dealing with their children and any fears that may arise as their mothers battle breast cancer?
Cathy: I have shared with my daughter and daughter- in- law’s how important it is to do self-checks and get yearly physicals. I harp on being extremely aware of your body and what it feels like. I think some doctors dismiss lumps when the woman is younger and with Triple Negative, there is no discrimination of age. Women as young as twenty have been diagnosed. I really want to get that across to mom’s and grandmoms, to tell your daughters and granddaughters to be aware.
Catherine: That’s so important to empower them to take control of their bodies and their healing. One last question. Can you share with us how your journey overcoming breast cancer changed the way you see life and how you live your life?
Cathy: I think after going through breast cancer, nothing scares me anymore. I have learned to speak positivity over myself and my family. I honestly trust God and know that I am supposed to still be here. It is the greatest privilege for me to be able to share my story and help women going through the battle. My best friend from junior and high school was just diagnosed three weeks ago and I literally (as I am writing this) had a thirty-two year old reach out to me as she was just diagnosed with Triple Negative. I feel like breast cancer has become an opportunity and one that I feel truly blessed to have!
And that Beauties, is how to turn a negative into a positive … or in Cathy’s case a Triple Positive!