Surviving Breast Cancer… season 1

cancer

Tom Becka: Everybody knows somebody with cancer. Hello and welcome to this interview on Tombecka.com. This was an interesting one to do, a hard one to do. Becky’s a friend of mine and she’s a breast cancer survivor.

Now everybody knows somebody with sad cancer, may be you’ve had cancer. But until you actually go through it yourself, maybe you don’t know just what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, how they handle it and everybody handles it differently, but maybe you are afraid to ask people sometimes questions that you want to know. I approach this interview with that attitude.

What are the things that people might be afraid to ask a breast cancer survivor? What are some of the things that maybe they might be afraid to say or want to know about but they just think impolite, like, what about the nipple tattoo? What about the first time she saw herself naked? What about things that maybe you just wouldn’t ask, but you might be curious about, so that’s what this is about. It’s a story of hope. It’s a story of success. It’s a story of overcoming breast cancer. I hope you enjoy it.

How did you think that you had breast cancer? You got it at a pretty young age didn’t you?

Becky: I was 42.

Tom: That’s pretty young though isn’t it for breast cancer?

Becky: Very young.

Tom: Yeah. What made you think that you had breast cancer?

Becky: I had no idea. I went to my doctor for my annual check-up to get my pap smear and he told me I had a lump. So I didn’t really think much about it because I have cysts on the top of my head and I had a cyst on my wrist and I figured I just have lumps. [laughs] He said, “It’s probably nothing,” and I said, “Yeah I’m sure it’s nothing. and he scheduled me for a mammogram.

Tom: What was going through your mind while you’re going into that? Again, you still think that It’s nothing? I mean were you in denial or did you honestly think there was nothing going on?

Becky: I really wasn’t too worried about it. I just didn’t think again I’m not a good candidate for breast cancer. [laughs] Like of all the things that you can read about what would lead to it, I wasn’t a candidate. No, I didn’t think, I really didn’t panic or anything.

Tom: That’s right because you don’t smoke, you don’t…

Becky: I don’t smoke. I had small breasts. I had my period late in life. I started late, I was 14 and I don’t have any history of it in my family. All the things that could contribute to it, I didn’t have.

Tom: Then you find out. The doctor does the mammogram, he does the test and he comes back and he says you have breast cancer.

Becky: I did the mammogram and then they wanted to do a needle biopsy? When they wanted to do that my mom went with me. Then I started to get a little bit, I guess, nervous, needle biopsy. The needle biopsy was much more painful and scary than I imagined.

Just going through that procedure was hard. It took a couple days to get a response, and I had some missed calls on my phone from the doctors. I called and I got the nurse, and she wouldn’t tell me anything. That’s always bad. [laughs]

That’s like, “Uh-oh.” I was driving. It was five o’clock on a Friday night, and I got my doctor on the phone and he said, “I am so sorry, but it’s cancer.” I just remember just going off the road into a parking lot and just shutting my car off and going, “What?” Of course I was nervous after the needle biopsy and it was getting to be more in my head, but that news was quite a shock.

Tom: Now before we talk about that. So you’re in that limbo period here. All of a sudden you realize, “I might have breast cancer.” But you’ve got kids, you’ve got a family, you’ve got a life. You got to keep on going on. You can’t just sit in a room and obsess about it all the time. How do you handle that fear, that unknowing, in the back of your mind while you’re trying to live a day-to-day life?

Becky: I had just gone through a divorce and moved to a new house. I had a lot on my plate being a single mom for the first time. I guess a divorced mom. I didn’t tell my kids about any of it. I didn’t tell them about the tests. I didn’t tell them anything. Just my mom knew.

My way was just to keep on saying, “It’s OK. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I’m just going to find out later and just keep going.” Of course, you never stop thinking about it. I didn’t talk about it, and I just kept going.

Tom: Just kept on going on. You said you didn’t have any of the factors, but don’t studies show that stress is a factor? If you had been going through a divorce and everything else, that could have been one of the reasons?

Becky: Yeah, since then, since my diagnosis, I’ve read a lot about it. And I don’t know, just…I guess it’s just my belief since my…I ended up having five tumors. Since they were right over my heart, it was my belief that…

Tom: Oh, how horrible. Call Hallmark, we have a card here.

Becky: [laughs] It was stress.

Tom: In more than one way you removed the cancer. But anyway…

Becky: Oh, bah-dump.

Tom: So you’ve got that. Now there are different types of breast cancer. Was yours an especially dangerous one? Was it a cancer the doctor said, “Well, we can take it out and you’ll be OK.”?

What was the prognosis?

Becky: It was pretty early. The first doctor I went to said “We think you should probably do a lumpectomy and radiation, possible chemo, and we’ll do it next week.” I was like “What”? I play the violin. I’m a solo violinist for Manheim Steamroller. I was going to go out on tour soon and all of a sudden you’re talking about changing my life soon, possible my career.

I called Chip Davis and he said “Why don’t you go to the Mayo Clinic?” because he goes there for some stuff. I said “Well, I don’t know how to get in to the Mayo Clinic. I wouldn’t have a clue how to get in.” He made some phone calls and got me in touch with the right people, so I went there.

Now, what was your question? [laughs] I forgot your question.

Tom: My question? What was my question? [jokingly] No, the different levels of breast cancer, how serious was yours?

Becky: Mine was like stage one and it would have grown. It would have invaded my lymph nodes had I let it go on and we didn’t know at that time if it was in my lymph nodes or not.

Tom: So that would come with surgery and more tests?

Becky: Right.

Tom: By the way, how long ago was this?

Becky: Almost five years.

Tom: You’re almost cancer free for five years.

Becky: Almost.

Tom: Which they say is the benchmark right?

Becky: Yes. November 14 will be five years.

Tom: But who’s counting?You’re going to get to that benchmark. How often do you think about it on a day to day basis today?

Becky: I think about it every day because it’s changed my body, but I don’t think “Gosh, I wonder if I have cancer. Do I have cancer? Am I going to have cancer?” I don’t think like that every day. I think about it when it’s leading up to my six months appointments. I guess it crosses my mind when I hear people talk about cancer. I put it out of my head most of the time.

Tom: All right. I want to get back then to the whole process. Now you’re at the Mayo Clinic and they tell you instead of a lumpectomy they’re saying the breast ought to be removed, right?

Becky: Yeah. They said, in their opinion the lumpectomy makes you kind of deformed, that’s obvious, and then the radiation isn’t always successful. They didn’t know the extent. They wanted to repeat my ultrasound of the breast and the MRI of the breast. They just wanted to really investigate it and make sure, but they thought I had more cancer than was worthy of a lumpectomy.

Tom: Now it’s worse than you thought and now your thinking about “Oh, I’m going to lose my breast.” For women that’s major. If a man had to lose his testicles, it’s the same sort of thing, right? It’s a major thing. A lot of women, they put their personality in their breasts, if that’s the right way to put it. You know what I mean?

Becky: I had always been small breasted and always very critical of my small breasts, but all of a sudden they were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

[laughter]

Tom: You didn’t want to lose them. You only had one breast right?

Becky: Just in one, yeah.

Tom: Only, like it’s no big deal. It’s only one. You’ve got another one. [jokingly] You had the one breast removed?

Becky: Yes.

Tom: Try to explain, if you can, this whole process in your mind now because, again, you’ve got a career, you’ve got a family, you just had a divorce, you’ve got all this other stuff going on and now you’ve got to have a breast removed. That’s got to mess with your head.

Becky: Yeah and I didn’t have much of a support system. Who I did have was fantastic. My mom and dad and my kids and a couple of friends, but I didn’t have a partner. No boyfriend. Like I said, I was divorced. My ex-husband was actually appealing my divorce, so I had to go to appeals court, I was still working on that case. It was particularly hard, because of all the other things going on in my life at the same time.

I did go out on the Manheim Tour and I did play for three weeks. Chip was so good to me about making sure… like, my last concert was in Minneapolis, two days before my mastectomy.

From Minneapolis my mom and the kids came up there, but my surgery was December 22nd. I’m away from my kids for three weeks before Christmas. I have surgery on December 22nd, and so that day was hard.

Tom: Merry Christmas.

Becky: Yeah. December 23rd my kids were still there, but I wasn’t feeling very good. I did not look at myself that day. I had two drain tubes coming out of my chest. I didn’t look at them. I didn’t look at myself.

Then on the 24th my mom had to drive the kids back home to southwest Iowa to spend Christmas with their dad. I was left alone in Rochester with drain tubes, and I had to get out of the hospital and go to a hotel. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. I was very, very emotional, and it was Christmas.

Tom: Now at this point in time, though, are you happy that you’re going to live? Do you think you still might die?

What is going through…obviously the loneliness, the being away from your family, the divorce and everything. The loneliness is playing with you, but what about the actual, the cancer itself? How is that messing with your head?

Becky: Well, they took out the sentinel lymph nodes and they said, “Well, we didn’t technically find any.” But there was, I’m just going to make this up, but a .01 percent of cancer in the sentinel lymph node. But then they tell you, “But there’s technically not any.” So there is but there isn’t. I had to stay up there for a week to go to the oncologist then. That’s why I had to go to the hotel and stuff.

I guess I was in a little bit of a battle. I had a friend who was absolutely against chemo. He said, “Do not do chemo. Ask your doctor, ask your oncologist every single question you can possibly come up with to challenge him on chemo.” My mother was saying, “You just do whatever the oncologist says. If you don’t do chemo and you die, I’m going to kill you.” [laughs]

Tom: [laughs] The love of a mother.

Becky: That was more of a struggle for me. Now what do I do? You know, my breast is gone. Actually, the little temporary thing they put in there was probably bigger than my original breast. I was like [laughs] .

Tom: Did they put a temporary breast implant in there?

Becky: They put a chest expander in there. I guess there’s some controversy of do people do that all the time or not. Some doctors like it and some don’t. They put an expander behind the chest wall to stretch out your muscles so that you can put the implant behind muscles.

Then you put saline in that every…I don’t know, I can’t remember anymore. Like every couple weeks to expand it until you’re at the point where you want to be at the right size. Then you leave it there for a while. Like three months.

Tom: What was it like…or how long did it take before you could actually go and look in the mirror and look at this?

Becky: Well, it was probably a couple days. Because when everybody left I had to do the drain tubes myself, that was horrible, probably just because I was feeling sorry for myself, but also because they hurt a lot. They hurt where they were inserted into me.

One was in my armpit one, was in the front of my chest, and just…my skin started growing onto them and it was really, really, really, really painful. I’m trying to deal with that and then drain them properly. You don’t squeeze the stuff back into your body. You want it to drain.

I wasn’t really thinking, “Oh my gosh, what if I still have cancer?” Or, “What if it kills me?” right? I would never really did that. I didn’t do the “what if I die?” thing.

Tom: Death was never in the equation for you?

Becky: No.

Tom: It was just, “Let’s get this done. I got a life I got to get to. Let’s hurry up and finish this.”

Becky: Yeah. I mean, every once in awhile, when the tests kept getting worse for awhile, I’d think, “OK, that’s enough” because my three daughters are young. This just can’t happen.

Tom: Now a lot of people they go into a denial with something like this and they put it off, and they put it off, and they put it off. Say, “OK, well, you know, maybe it will go away.” Was there ever any thought of that in your mind? Thinking, “Oh, you know, maybe it’ll get better on its own.” or whatever?

Becky: No. In fact, while I was out on the tour I got an article emailed to me about how Canadians were…these other women that just ignore it and it goes away. Or you can go into the woods with your didgeridoo and it’ll go away.

I’m going, “How about modern medicine is there for a reason?” Or prayer. Well, I’m Christian and I pray all the time, but I think God gave us doctors. [laughs] Sorry if I offend anybody, but I believe in medicine.

Tom: Did you ever question God throughout all this? Why me?

Becky: No. I don’t doubt God. I prayed to Him for strength and for calmness for my kids. I prayed for Him to be there for my kids. I think our bodies just fail sometimes. Things get screwed up and they fail. Then turn to God for support. Don’t blame Him.

Tom: How long was it then from the surgery until you start reconstructive surgery on your breast? Because now this is a whole new process here now, too, because don’t they have to make sure all the cancer is gone? Make sure that everything is good before they can start doing the reconstructive surgery?

Becky: That’s a beautiful thing about the Mayo. They have tag-team surgeons. I had a team of surgeons that day that took my breast, they took some skin, they took my nipple, and made sure all the margins were clear which just means there’s no cancer at the edges. So they’re sure they got it all. They went and tested the sentinel lymph nodes. They did all that while I was under anesthetic. Then they had the plastic surgeon just come in and start and put in that chest expander right then.

Tom: So you started the process of rebuilding your breast the second you had the surgery done?

Becky: Yeah.

Tom: Now it’ll work me through the process on this. You have the expander. That has to be in for how long?

Becky: It was in for over a year. You grow it for a while. My mom is a nurse and we thought, “Well, I can’t keep going up to the Mayo Clinic to get these injections.” So my mom’s like, “Well, I’ll go to one of your appointments and I’ll learn how to do it.”

There’s a valve, and you have to find the valve and then inject the saline into there. Well, [laughs] we’re in my kitchen and she’s trying to do it. But I’m her daughter and I’ve had cancer, and she got freaked out and I can remember sitting…

Tom: [laughs] Thanks, Mom.

Becky: I love you, Mom sitting topless in my kitchen with a needle hanging out of my chest while she’s on the phone with the Mayo Clinic. [laughs] I’m like, “I’ll just be here waiting.” [laughs]

Tom: With a little needle hanging out of my boob while my mom’s on the phone freaking out. OK.

Becky: Yep.

Tom: Welcome to my life.

Becky: After that I found a clinic that would do it locally. [laughs]

Tom: We’re laughing about this a little bit, but was there laughter during this whole time? Was there a dark humor where you’re going through all of this? Or were you just sad and miserable the whole time? Or did sometimes you just, you know, make a joke of it because of, you know…

Becky: That moment we were laughing. She was really, really scared, but we were also laughing. My mom’s very healthy person and keeps it all in good perspective.

I guess in some of my private moments alone I sure did feel sorry for myself. I tried to keep positive all the time for my kids, but I know I didn’t. You can’t. I didn’t want them to be thinking of…see, you know, what they reacted because they were 11, 9, and 3. The 11 and 9-year-old’s thoughts were, “Does this mean I’m going to get it?” That’s how you are at that age.

I had to reassure them a lot about themselves. So I don’t want to be “Oh, woe is me, pity me, look at what I have to do.” The older two never did see my breast. They never wanted to see it. They were squeamish.

Tom: Now when did you tell them? I mean, when did you finally sit down with the kids and talk to them and say mommy has breast cancer. Mommy’s sick. Mommy’s going to the hospital for awhile. What did you say and how did they take it?

Becky: Boy, it was hard, because I had just gotten my divorce finalized in the end of September and we moved into our house shortly after that. I was feeling like, the divorce is done. We had been living with my parents. We’ve got our own home now. We’re going to work on rebuilding our lives and getting stronger and being happier.

Then I have to give them this… the cancer word is…you have to be really careful when you tell kids that. I didn’t tell them until all…a lot of my tests were done. I’d had a bone scan, I don’t know, I can’t remember everything, a body scan. They just look for cancer everywhere. They figured out exactly where it was.

Then my parents brought them up to the hospital at the end of a day of testing. They came into radiology and they’re going, “Mom, what are we doing here? Why are we here? Why did they bring us here?”

Tom: So they don’t know yet. You’re in the hospital, and they don’t know why they’re there?

Becky: Yeah. But I wasn’t admitted, I was just there for tests. I said, “Well, it’s a little bit scary news. I have breast cancer, but the doctors are pretty sure they can remove it. I think they’re going to have to take my breast, but they’re pretty sure they can remove it and I’m going to be OK.” I just started it right off with we’re going to take care of this.

Tom: How did they react?

Becky: They were calm. They were OK. \ Last year, their school did a Relay Recess which is like a Relay For Life but it’s in the school. I was there and I carried one side of the banner around the track. They said that was the first time it really hit them because everybody’s cheering for the cancer survivors and stuff. They said, “Wow, Mom could have died.” It was the first time it hit them.

Tom: Yeah, because you don’t think at that age that your mom is ever going to die. And you at that age don’t think you’re going to die. Does it ever hit you like that? Like, wow, I could have died?

I mean, if you had not gone in for your physical, if you had just said, “Well, I’ll do it later.” If you had not gone in for your physical, that would have continued to grow and would have been a much worse problem. Do you ever think about stuff like that?

Becky: Yeah, sure. Everybody go get your Pap smear and go get your physicals. Go get your stuff, because yeah, one more year and it could have been all over my body, if I would have just said, “Eh, I don’t feel like going to get that test this year” because I don’t do breast self-exams. I’m terrible. My doctor says, “Do you do your self-exams?” “Oh, yes. I do.”

Tom: You lied to your doctor?

Becky: I lie.

Tom: Why don’t you? Do you do it now?

Becky: Yes.

Tom: Well no, seriously, so you don’t? You still don’t do it?

Becky: I still don’t do it. Because I have a doctor test me twice a year and I get a mammogram every year. I’ve only got one breast to check anyway now so my odds are less. [laughs] I guess it would take half as much time to check it.

Tom: Yeah, there you go.

Becky: I don’t know. I’m terrible.

Tom: Let’s talk about the process. You’re getting the breast rebuilt. When I told a friend of mine that I was doing this interview, she said, “I’m fascinated about the tattooing of the nipple for some reason.” First of all you didn’t tell a lot of your friends you were going through this, did you?

Becky: Pretty much nobody knows what I’m saying today. My parents and my kids know. My kids actually really didn’t know much about the tattoo until this week we talked about it. And they, it’s five years. Can I say my doctor’s name? Maybe not.

Tom: Probably not, yeah. It just, yeah.

Becky: I have a fantastic doctor, plastic surgeon. If you want to know who he is, call me. I had loved the Mayo Clinic. I loved my team of doctors there. I trust them. You know, it’s extremely personal. You have to just stand there naked and get measured and get photographed, and I’m so private. I’m so shy. I did not tell people what I was going through. People at work maybe knew I had cancer, and that was…

Tom: “Kind of maybe knew”?

Becky: Yeah, I told a couple of my best friends and that was it. So it circulated, but…

Tom: Yeah, it’s like, “Don’t tell anybody, but…” sort of a thing?

Becky: Yeah. They really didn’t know. They didn’t know the procedures I went through. I’ll tell you what, to play the violin going through what I did was hell. It was hell. I had problems with my insurance at the Mayo Clinic, so I had to find a doctor locally, got a few recommendations, found somebody that was just terrific.

He was good at suggesting things to me without saying “this is what you’re going to do.” I had my scar from the original surgery was a big T, a big, thick T. He said, “OK, when you get to that point where you’re ready to take out the expander and put in the implant,” which is where I was when I met him, “I can fix that scar so it’s not so bad. I can tuck up the skin.”

I said, “Don’t mess with me.” It is what it is. I don’t care. If anybody’s ever going to see me naked they’re not going to judge me on that, that I’m just not, just because I’m private. He just kept saying, “OK, that’s fine, we’ll just do whatever you want. But you know…” and then he’d draw it out for me what he could do.

He nudged me that way, and so I said, “Fine. OK. Go ahead, tuck that scar up.” So he made it into just one horizontal scar. Then I had originally said, “No tattoo, no nipple. I’m good with this.” He said, “Just consider, you’ve gone this far with it and how much more natural it would look” and that…anyway, he gently convinced me to do the tattoo and the fake nipple.

Well, the fake nipple is the strangest thing ever. They pull up your skin and slice it up and down and then spin it. I don’t know how…it’s like a steamer that you put in a pot. You know, those metal steamers, how they clasp together?

It was like that. He pulled up my skin and kind of spun it around and stitched it. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Tom: Is there texture to it? Or is it just a…because I just assumed it was a tattoo of just…

Becky: No, I have this nipple. I don’t know. This is hard to talk about. Sometimes it gets smooshed flat because it’s just skin. It’s not like a regular nipple. It doesn’t stand out there.

Tom: If it’s cold it doesn’t, no.

Becky: It doesn’t, no. Thank you. But it’s a little bit of a lump there. I had to wear something over it all the time for the first ten days so that you don’t smoosh it down and ruin it. I put a medicine cup over it and taped it, and I called it my nipple helmet.

Tom: Now is that like just before you go to bed? Or is that like you’re walking around town with a nipple helmet?

Becky: I don’t know. If you couldn’t tell, then I guess we won’t say.

Tom: You just wore a lot of baggy clothes during this period.

Becky: Oh yeah. Padded, baggy. And my little nipple helmet on.

Tom: [laughs] Oh, that’s…

Becky: So then the tattooing. They do not put you to sleep. Now I had had so many procedures by this point that general anesthesia was not working well for me anyway. I was getting extremely sick from all the surgeries.

Every time I’d wake up I was vomiting and just sick for more like…first it was an hour. Then it was half a day. Then it was two days, and yeah, I wasn’t recovering from all this general anesthesia very well, so I was really glad. Oh, good. Not going to put me out.

They put those drapes over you. In the beginning it didn’t hurt too much, and they numb you up and…But it’s an art. It’s like a tattoo. Actually, because of insurance reasons I went to a tattoo parlor to see, can you guys just do this? They said, “No.” There’re legal reasons and medical reasons and that. That they won’t do that but, just put a tattoo on my boob. No.

Tom: Now if you want something on your neck or on your face, we can do that but not on your boob. We can’t tattoo your boob.

Becky: I could have put “mom” with the O being the…no, never mind. Love you mom. Did I tell you that?

Tom: Of course, if you were looking at it, it would say “wow.”

Becky: [laughs]

Tom: I’m just thinking out loud here. Really, it says a tattoo and you think about it, but I guess I just thought it was like, yeah, you know, it’s a tattoo. But it’s really not. It’s a whole plastic surgery procedure.

Becky: It is. He has to know how much…how far to go with it, how much color to put into it. He tried to match my other side. But it wears on your nerves. I mean, it was like an hour and a half procedure, and by the about the forty-five minute point I started grabbing his arm from under the drape. He’s like, “Becky, you can’t do that.” I’m going, “I can’t do this anymore. It hurts.”

Tom: Is this a one day thing? Or is this a…

Becky: No, it’s just a one day, yeah. It’s outpatient. You just go check in and they get you prepped and to walk into a surgery room awake and lay down awake and all that. I think, “No, no, no, I don’t, no. Put me asleep.” It was probably the most painful part of the whole thing, the tattoo.

Tom: They didn’t give you anything? No Valium, no nothing?

Becky: No. I would take my own if I could go back now. Then I left and I went to work, and I had to play a side-by-side. The symphony does these where you play with kids in a high school orchestra.

I’m sitting with this cute little high school girl, and she’s absorbing all my knowledge, right? I’m going, “I can’t be here. I can’t be here. I have nothing to offer, and all I can think about is how much I’m hurting.” So I left after an hour, and I went home and just cried. I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t take it back. I’m really glad I did it. But at least like a shot of whiskey or something [laughs] .

Tom: Have you gotten any other tat? They say tattoos are addictive. Once you get one you want more.

Becky: No.

Tom: No?

Becky: No.

Tom: No, no other tattoos. The story has a happy ending or at least a happy continuance. It was a long journey from the time that when you got diagnosed with the cancer to the time you got the tattoo. Now we’re getting close to the five year anniversary here. After the five year anniversary, do you still have to go in like once a year, once two years? What do you have to do to check?

Becky: Once a year.

Tom: Once a year to be checked.

Becky: I’m going to go in November, and then I don’t know if I’ll have to go in the spring. I take Tamoxifen. I never did have chemo because I fought it so hard that I got Oncogene Testing, which showed that I did not need chemo, and it was really worth the fight. I take Tamoxifen. I’ve taken it for almost five years. In March it’ll be five years and so then I’ll go to the once a year.

Tom: What have you learned about yourself and about others throughout this whole ordeal?

Becky: One of the things that scared me a lot was my career because I’m a violinist. This is on the left side of my body right where I rest my violin. They removed all of my breast tissue, so playing the violin got more and more painful all the time because I’m playing on my ribs.

I had another procedure where they moved a…I’m going to answer your question. They moved a muscle. He moved a muscle to the top of my breast to try to give me more padding. He put in a higher profile implant just to try to help with the padding. Then I designed a cushion that has carpet backing inside of velvet, and it’s like a drape. My mom made it. She sewed it for me. I put that on my chest when I play violin to help protect it from the pain.

What I have learned from all of that is how much to appreciate that I can still play the violin. I’ve thought so many times, I think my career is going to be over. I think this is it. If it is, so be it. I’ll find something else. It’s not the end of the world.

It brought me closer to my kids because I thought all the time how much I value being their mother. And how much I want to stay here and be their mom, and see everything that I can see. Like my parents do. It just makes you reflect on life. The first year you think, oh my gosh everybody complains about so much dumb stuff. You’re going, your pinky hurts? I have cancer.

[laughter]

Becky: It’s just so stupid. Of course, now I’m guilty of it too.

Tom: You’re back to worrying about petty stuff. Did you ever play the cancer card to get something done? In other words, you know, like if you wanted the kids to clean up their room, or if you needed something at work or whatever. You know, just something, hey, you know I got cancer here, can you help me out?

Becky: Nope, never.

Tom: You never played the cancer card?

Becky: Never.

Tom: Ever tempted to?

Becky: Never.

Tom: You never told a lot of your friends?

Becky: No.

Tom: In hindsight was that a good idea or do you think you would have been better off to have more support?

Becky: I told my friends who mattered. I think people that heard about it and didn’t reach out, I don’t blame because maybe they thought, maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it. But I also know that they’re not deep friends. It wasn’t a test or anything like that. It sounds like I’m testing. That’s not how I mean it. No, I told who I needed to tell. It was enough.

Tom: Kind of a private thing.

Becky: Yeah.

Tom: Just people, you find out somebody has cancer and…

Becky: You don’t know what to say.

Tom: …people want to be nice. But yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this podcast because, you know, you and I’ve talked before about the fact that, you know, people don’t really know what to say, but they have questions.

Maybe this way they get some of the questions answered and that they want to, maybe be nice or be respectful but they don’t really know what…it’s like if somebody dies, you want to be nice and respectful but you don’t know what to say.

Becky: Right. I had a couple women that were cancer survivors that came over to my house and told me every nitty-gritty detail. I was fascinated ’cause I’m in the early stages and they’re, like, a year or two beyond me. They’re my friends. They helped me a lot just for them to be able to talk really explicitly about it.

Tom: Because your mom or other friends, they haven’t gone through it. They really don’t know. They want to be supportive but they really don’t know ’cause they haven’t experienced the same thing you’re experiencing.

What would you say to somebody else right now who might be in the early stages where you were five years ago? And that might be listening to this. What would you say to them?

Becky: There’s a lot out there that you can read about it, that’s worst case scenario. Be careful of that. You can read everything that can possibly happen to you and all the places it can go and metastasizing and…don’t go there.

Deal with what you have to deal with right now. I mean educating yourself is good, but freaking yourself out isn’t. So learn what you can, question your doctors. Make sure you know what’s happening to your body, but don’t panic and don’t think worst case scenario. Just take care of it because you can…the stress eats away at you and the fear eats away at you and just try not to do that. Try to keep living your life.

Tom: That’s easier said than done though, isn’t it?

Becky: Yeah, but it’s not impossible. Sure, I know. I had a friend that I reached out to a couple years ago who was in breast cancer treatment. I kept trying and she didn’t want to talk. She just didn’t. So I just finally had to give up.

Everybody’s who they are. You can talk or not talk. I mean, we all handle it differently but however you’re handling it, just try to focus on the positive. And my opinion, God’s always there for you.

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Tom: There you have a personal story about some insight as to what one person felt like while she was going through breast cancer. If you’re going through that or know somebody who’s going through that right now, my thoughts and prayers are with you. And know that there is a lot of hope and that it can get beat.

Hey, if you like this podcast, if you like this, will you do me a favor? Either, you can either make a donation to me, buy me a sandwich, help keep these podcasts alive. Or make a donation to the American Cancer Society, and help them fight breast cancer and all other forms of cancer, a lot of other great interviews here. Tell your friends, spread the word, TomBecka.com.

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