Warrior....Ninja.....Grateful.... Read Tracy’s Story.
“Gratefulness and Kindness. The keys to my world being turned upside down and me landing on my feet and being in the best place I’ve ever been.
Let’s start from the beginning….
I was 37, went through rounds of unexplained infertility IVF, with no luck. I started to experience pain on my left side of my breast. I went to my GP, I had always had dense, lumpy breasts and had requested a mammogram before as a baseline. He always said no. I had explained the pain, he maintained his position. I went back 3 more times within the 10 months, the pain increasing all the time, feeling like acid was eating its way across my chest. He did physical and a breast exam, told me I was fine. I continued my own breast exams, knowing it wasn’t right. My nipple then inverted. Thank god for self exams!!
I got in for a mammogram the next day and an ultrasound. I knew. One single tear escaped, and they sent the doctor in.
The words: "It’s cancer. And it’s bad." He rushed my results, and told me I would see a doctor within 2 weeks.
My world crumbled. I collapsed in the parking lot, alone, terrified. I couldn’t breathe. What was happening? How could this be? NO family history.
I have to say that was the worst, the waiting game. Waiting is torture, waiting for biopsy results, waiting for doctors, waiting for a plan. AND then having to tell your loved ones. I had a really hard time saying the words out loud, it just didn’t seem real. My partner had 2 kids from a previous marriage. Telling the kids was awful. We had a ninja song we always sang. The CANCER NINJA was born that day. This wasn’t going to take me down without one hell of a fight, and it gave us something to focus on…. NINJA power!!
I had had a double mastectomy with expanders. And at surgery they discovered how massive my tumor was, and that it had spread to my lymph nodes. And they found 4 more nodes after surgery, which was hard, to say the least. Stage 3b, grade 4, triple positive, invasive carcinoma, and a 50% chance of recurrence…..mostly because it was left too long.
WE NEED MORE AWARENESS. My surgeon informed me the amount of women she saw under the age of 35 was astounding. So, I made a decision, I would go public with my story. I needed other women to start the conversation with their daughters, nieces, co workers. We need to be advocate for our health. We need to know our bodies, our normal. We need to fight for ourselves. Do the exams, find a doctor that listens. Take control of your health. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, not age, race, family history. Know your body, trust your gut. Reach out. There is a whole community that will help and guide in any way possible. Pink sisters stick together.
One dark night, you know the night, the dark rabbit hole you go down when you can’t shut your mind off, I found an angel, an IG angel. Vibrant yogi was my inspiration. It’s amazing how the universe brought us together under such crazy circumstances. We were each others rocks, thank goodness through this whole ordeal, we never had bad days on the same day! She held me up when I couldn’t and vice versa. To have someone with you that are going through the same things is beyond priceless. That’s why support groups are so important. Her motto…Kindness cures. She gave me hope, and inspired me to find my purpose. Ha, and we have only ever met once.
She helped me be determined that something good was going to come from this. Somehow, someway, and that’s exactly what I needed...
I began chemotherapy in January. By the second treatment I knew I needed to shave my long, thick, dark locks. So we had a plan, an exact date as to when I wouldn’t have my hair.
The Jack Addy took such good care of me, those nurses are pretty special people. I went through all the side effects. I was a chemo unicorn, I suffered all the random side effects. I reacted to the herception. I lost all my hair (nose hairs and eye lashes were the worst), extreme nausea, dizziness, my toenails and fingernails turned purple and tried to fall off, and then the hot flashes…the vicious hot flashes.
We had an incredible program here where the paramedics come to your house and administer anti nauseas and fluids to help battle the dehydration. Works great, however I did gain about 30 lbs though,likely from all the steroids, without eating hardly anything…Which, apparently is very common. 90% of people gain weight during chemo, not at all what the movies depict!!….
So, all time low. I felt like a chubby, hairless, cat at this point, bald, food aversions, no clothes fit, my skin was grey and pasty, huge dark circles, fatigue, etc. Every day was battle to function and be present.
Rock bottom so I thought…
My partner of 10+ years chose this time to leave me for another woman. There it was….
Actual rock bottom.
And it was excruciating. I didn’t think I had anything to live for, without the kids, without the life I knew. I still had so much to go through and I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage. I still had meds, and radiation, a full hysterectomy, reconstruction, bone shots, port surgery. I felt lost, and beyond terrified at the future, I didn’t get out of bed for weeks. I stopped fighting, I stopped eating, drinking. It wasn’t pretty. But rock bottom rarely is.
I had the MOST INCREDIBLE support system of family and friends around me during my journey, but then they stepped up even more. My Ninja Squad picked me up, dusted me off and got me through 28 rounds of radiation, medications, side effects, dehydration, fainting, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety. The way they rallied around me, it was humbling. I was surrounded by love and support. I was beyond grateful. During active treatment you get bombarded by appointments, treatments, ‘the plan’. Once that’s over you then get to deal with the mental aspects of having cancer. It can be a dark, scary place. I had help from the Tom Baker psychologist and the social worker here. I did the work. But it wasn’t easy facing the darkness.
You have to take things one day at a time. When one day was too daunting, it was an hour at a time. Being gentle with yourself. Trusting that tomorrow will be better. Find things to be grateful for and focus on them, no matter how small. I would not have survived all of it without my squad. I’m a very lucky girl, they showed me how to support and that my vulnerability is a strength.
My Ninja Squad is my inspiration to help others. So,I’m very excited to announce that we are planning an annual cancer fundraiser here in Lethbridge. I’m all in. Not everyone has the type of support I did. I want to create that. I want to create a ton of awareness. Conversations. Financial support. Shed light on the amazing organizations there are to help cancer patients. To make sure families know they are not alone in this fight. Not ever.
Now, I see things so differently; I see the tests and appointments as early detection. I don’t get test anxiety. I trust my team. And if I have to, I want to face recurrence head on and as soon as possible. I trust that IF my cancer comes back, there will be new treatments and options to CRUSH it, AGAIN.
I see how far I’ve come. When I look back at the few pictures I did take of rock bottom, the pictures I didn’t want to take, because I never thought I would want to remember.
I was so wrong.
I actually wish I had professional pictures taken. To honor and cherish the warrior I see now. The body that went to war for me. I am so grateful and appreciative of how hard it fought for me.
So today I see life differently. I cry happy tears at the beach. I think ducks are stunning. I leaped and danced through the leaves this fall. We are surrounded by beauty and we need to see it, actually see it. And be around people that feel like sunshine. I dance and sing all over, while I’m outside, doesn’t matter, I have a voice like a splintering glass, and I don’t care.
That’s my life now. I’m genuinely the happiest I’ve ever been. Inside and out. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve conquered..
I am a Warrior. I am a Ninja. I am Grateful.”