Stories of hope


Victoria Boyd Devine

Victoria

My story begins with a fear of doctor’s offices, people in white coats, scrubs, needles, blood, labs, IVs, MRIs, ultrasounds . . . really anything medically related. I have suffered this phobia my entire life. Ironically, despite total immersion in cancer-land, I still carry this fear.

A lot occurs between the first sketchy mammogram and where I am today. First came the fear. Telling my husband, Mike, and my son, Alec who was 16 years old. I feared telling my parents and my sister, all of my friends and my church family. I feared what I would experience with this disease; but along with that fear, I still had hope that the follow-up mammogram would be fine.

Unfortunately, it was not fine. . . I was not fine. And so, I began my horrible trip. When I told my husband, his eyes welled up with pure sympathy for me. He knows how medically phobic I am. It was obvious he felt awful for me. What I saw in my son’s eyes was fear itself in 16 year-old form. He felt badly for me, and at the same time, he struggled with figuring out how he was supposed to feel. I could ask him now and he could tell me.

Like most patients diagnosed with breast cancer I next underwent biopsies, a lumpectomy, MRI’s, ultrasounds, and lots of other really fun stuff (that’s sarcasm). I tackled all of this with the help of Zanax, but more importantly, with my husband at every appointment and my son sticking by my side the whole way.

I decided that a double mastectomy was the way to go. I knew that I could not spend the rest of my life fearing recurrence. So, if they were both gone, that should solve that.

After the surgery, I had babysitters for ten days. I could use the restroom and wash my hands but could not push the soap dispenser down to get soap. I could not lift anything larger than a fork. These friends and family did everything for me. They were, and still are, invaluable people in my life. My son’s friends came to visit and my family was over often. My parents were supportive but not overbearing.It was announced in church that I had breast cancer and that my way of dealing with it was to not talk about it.

As a cancer patient, I struggle with a few things: the way people look at you as if you are no longer you; people who call this a “journey” (I would prefer to call it a slow train wreck from hell); moments of helplessness like when I dropped the drainage cup on the floor and my saint of a husband did the cleaning; being sick and being tired; friends who have their own expectations and who preach about how I should handle the disease (grrrrrrrr!); not knowing if you will ever feel healthy and strong again; missing lots of activities and experiences; and mostly the anger and not knowing where to put it. And finally, gaining lots of weight. I ate my way through cancer from May to September.

Despite the fear, pain and anxiety I’ve endured, there’s always a silver lining. My husband was there for me 100% how I needed him to be. He came to all appointments, missed lots of work, never spoke a negative word, drained all my tubes for 10 days, arranged my pillows every day and night and woke up with me all night to help me to the bathroom and to get medicine for me. My son came to see me every day after school and spent time with me until I was able to come out to the living room with the family, he told me how much he loved me all the time, made fun of me so it felt normal, brought his friends over to visit, and did as much as he could while keeping up with all of his school and sports commitments.

My parents were there for me when I needed a place to stay when my son and husband went out of town on a trip I insisted they go on, they made me food and helped to train the babysitters on what needed to be done for me. They were also a huge support to my son and husband. I have a new friendship and love for my sister that we had not enjoyed for a while. My cancer brought us close together and now we can struggle and laugh about hard things we are both facing.

I am not cancer free yet. I am not a survivor yet. But, I am surviving and refuse to do anything else. I have sarcasm and humor on my side and am doing my best to take care of myself and work off what I ate during this train wreck.

I love everyone I’ve met through the Vera Bradley Foundation and I hope other survivors tell you how appreciative we are for all you do for us.

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