This year, we will begin featuring stories from our collection as our monthly Faces of Hope. These stories show the common experience shared by people facing cancer, but they also illustrate the highly personal nature of storytelling, reflecting the unique thoughts, feelings, and language of their authors. By sharing these stories here, we hope their words will be an additional source of strength for our scarf recipients, help friends and supporters better understand what it’s like to hear, “you have cancer,” and be a source of inspiration for all who read them.
If you would like to see your story featured as a Face of Hope, please submit it here.
Maggie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 33, and even though we recently received her story, it has been attached to 5 Hope Scarves. Maggie’s treatment occurred while pregnant and completing her dissertation for a doctoral degree in microbiology. Thank you for sharing your story, strength, and hope with others, Maggie!
Tell us a little about your diagnosis and what brought you hope during your treatment.
My husband and I had struggled to get pregnant for several years and finally, through fertility treatments, we conceived. We were thrilled. However, early on in the pregnancy I found a lump in my breast and brought it to the notice of the reproductive specialists, as I hadn’t yet been released to an OBGYN. They noted this in my file, but reassured me that breast changes are common during pregnancy and that I should follow-up with the OBGYN. I did so after a few weeks of waiting for an appointment. The OBGYN then referred me to breast imaging for an ultrasound (they didn’t want to expose my unborn child to radiation from the mammogram.) I knew something was wrong when the tech left the room and brought the doctor in to talk to me. This was followed by another appointment and a biopsy. I was reassured because of my age and fact that breast tissue changes when pregnant. This made me all the more devastated to receive the details over the phone (in the car) that it was cancerous. I was 17-weeks pregnant!
While being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant is devastating, and complicated due to fears and worries about your unborn child, it also gave me hope to think about my baby. I focused most of my energy on taking care of myself and doing what was best for both myself, as well as the baby. I took comfort in knowing that people before me had undergone surgeries and chemotherapy and went on to have healthy babies. I was also found hope in the support from others that I often received, sometimes from mere acquaintances, or awkward, but touching moments with strangers. The support was sometimes overwhelming, at least during my active treatment that I felt I could never give back enough to others what was given to me.
What was the hardest part of your cancer journey?
There are a few “hardest parts” of my cancer journey. For one, I was making decisions that affected by me and my unborn child, at least initially. I suppose this is still true today, but the feelings are less sharp and raw now that I have a birthed a healthy child. I also think some of the hardest moments have occurred after active treatment. I was seeing my oncologist less and adjusting to my new life as a “cancer survivor” and all that this entails. During active treatment everyone was aware of my situation. But as time passed and treatment ends, people forget the trauma that I and others like me have endured. So it has been difficult to cope with all of the extra precaution and worries about my health that is part of the post-active treatment. I had to shift from experiencing an outpouring of assistance and care, to a more normal life, even though I still have many literal and figurative scars from the experience and must remain watchful for recurrence.
Please share any thoughts of words of encouragement for another woman going through treatment.
I found it easiest to take one step at a time and to try to focus on some of the more positive aspects of my life. Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that you can’t have a happy and meaningful life. In some ways, cancer helped me re-frame some of my stressors and burdens into something more positive and meaningful. I think my worldview has also changed.. to some extent for the better. I am more empathetic with others and kinder to myself and I appreciated what I do have more than I did pre-diagnosis. Please know that there are others out there who have gone through pregnancy and cancer treatments and are currently thriving. If you are pregnant and dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you might consider reach out to some additional resources that I wish I had known about (https://www.hopefortwo.org/).