It was 2003 and I was a young mom of 33. My son was 20 months old and my daughter was 4 ½. We had a long cold winter but spring time had finally arrived. It was the spring that would change my life and the lives of those closest to me forever.
The phone rings. It was my doctor’s office (I think we all know where this is going.) I had a lumpectomy 3 days prior. Everyone and every test said it was nothing but its big, so let’s just get it out. “The Doctor would like to see you. Could you come in on Monday?” Sure, nothing like the torturer of the weekend thrown into the question ”Why, was something in the lump not so good?” The whole thing wasn’t good, its cancer. The big C.
Monday came and my husband and I learned it was cancer and very aggressive. From there I went numb and remember little. I heard “oncologist… chemotherapy”. I could see my husband nodding and asking questions. It wasn’t my life that was flashing before my eyes, it was that of my beautiful babies. I was their youngest patient. They would call me “baby” since the majority of the patients had 20-30 years on me.
I never said the “c” word. If I said it was breast cancer, people would look at me as if it was a naughty word or with pity for my children. I only had 2 visitors during all those months. People didn’t know what to expect or what to say so they just didn’t come. If I went anywhere, I was always stared at and never spoken to. I remember feeling like other parents were afraid to let their children play with my son, for fear of catching the cancer. I really can’t blame anyone for their ignorance. When I tried to research breast cancer, nothing came up except you may possibly die.
Almost 11 years later, I’ve been through chemo, radiation, 9 surgeries, plus a diagnosis of BRCA 1 positive. It is so nice to say “breast cancer” and not feel ashamed and also to see all the pink. Breast cancer patients are no longer isolated the way I was. It is a completely different world, one that I’m so glad to be part of. When I see a person who is going thought treatment, I remember the stares. I walk up to that person, offer a hug, a smile, and a few kind words. I find this so fulfilling. I often feel as if my purpose was to brighten that one person’s day.
Over the years, I have found this is such a big part of my life, I can’t just put it behind me. I began sitting on different committees that support breast cancer awareness, organizing events, meeting other breast cancer survivors, and speaking at events. Despite my increasing involvement in the cancer support community, and never having time for myself while mothering 2 children, I still felt a bit lost, lonely, and empty. My wonderful breast cancer friends would remind me I am so much more than a mother to 2 beautiful children, I amazing in my own right. So when one of my closest friends asked me for the umpteenth time to work with her to carry out her vision of making a difference with Breast Investigators, I gave in and I haven’t looked back.
I now spend my days chatting away with survivors from all over. I now feel my purpose. I am part of something so amazing. Breast Investigators answers all those questions I once had but had no answers to. When I was diagnosed, I had almost no information to guide me. I would never have thought I would be part of bringing the information and hope to so many others. Thank you Angela for taking me on this journey and pointing me towards my purpose and my place.
by JoAnne Hampton
PR & Marketing, Breast Investigators