Some stories teach us about the incredible power of listening to your gut. At times, it’s much easier to shrug off symptoms than to face your fears. Michelle’s breast cancer story highlights the importance of listening to your heart and intuition. When Michelle discovered a lump in her breast, she told herself that she probably just had lumpy breasts and that it was probably nothing. Her gut however told her she should look into it further and listening to her gut may have actually saved her life.
Here is her story:
September 2, 2017 Saturday Night, I was rummaging through our junk drawer looking for a pen, when to my wondering eyes, there it was…I found it…Thank goodness I would never have to explain to my husband that I had lost it, because there it was. My husband Brad had bought me this beautiful white gold necklace with this brilliant diamond, that I wore religiously but had obviously taken it off and placed it in the junk drawer. I was jumping for joy and put the necklace on right away and went back to finding a pen, with an ear to ear grin. I was lying in my bed, over joyed that I had found the precious necklace, and the fact that I didn’t have to explain to my husband about my carelessness, dodged the bullet. I was admiring and playing with the necklace and had then rested my hand on my chest…little did I know this moment changed my life forever.
I had felt something, it was a hard lump in my right breast, and I then quickly checked my left breast and nothing. In my head I was like don’t be ridiculous, you have lumpy breasts, and it’s nothing. I then turned off the TV and went to bed. The next day I didn’t say anything to Brad, didn’t want to worry him or myself for that matter.
On Monday morning I woke up, jumped into the shower to get ready for work and while I was drying myself off I noticed that my necklace was missing…I figured it had fallen off on my bed, on the floor in the bathroom, I scoured the entire bedroom…nothing did I really lose it again? I was running out of time and I had to leave for work. Driving to work all I could think was I need to find this necklace and where did it go.
I walked into the Medical Imaging department at Surrey Memorial Hospital and went to my desk to start my day. I had run into a co-worker and we chatted about our weekend and for some reason I blurted out “I found a lump, but I’m sure it’s nothing.” She looked at me with this Cheshire look and said “Michelle Smyth, you know better…” I sheepishly said “I know.” I quickly called my doctor to make an appointment but I was not able to get in until Wednesday, and in my head, this needed to happen ASAP. All day, I was very much preoccupied and I decided to take my lumpy breast to a walk-in clinic. “I just need an ultrasound requisition”, I explained to the doctor. He did a breast examination, gave me an ultrasound requisition and a referral to Breast Health.
The process then begins: Ultrasound, Breast Biopsy’s, MRI, Diagnostic Mammograms, more breast biopsies… still thinking that they are all just being very thorough. My Husband was scheduled to fly out on Friday September 15, 2017 to receive a Muscular Dystrophy award on behalf of the Burnaby Fire Department. When he landed, he gave me a call to say that he arrived safe and sound in Toronto. He knew that I was having another test and asked if I had the results yet. I said, “Nope, not until Monday.” I held back every emotion possible just to make it through the conversation. I just couldn’t allow myself to say one word to him. Ten minutes prior to Brad’s phone call, I did get my pathology report which showed that the biopsy taken had cancerous cells….It was the most devastating moment and yet I was not able to tell my husband. I know that he would have gotten right back on that plane and come home, but I felt that he needed to accept this award on behalf of the BFD and also because our son, Christian, was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy two years prior.
Our first Oncology appointment was two hours, the Doctor had explained all different options, from a full mastectomy, to a partial mastectomy, to chemotherapy, to radiation to medication for the next 5-15 years, and wow these options were endless. Do I do one of them? Do I do all of them? In my mind I needed to be here for my husband and children so I decided to go with (D) all of the above. I wanted this disease out of me and I wanted to kill every cell and be done with Cancer.
October 5, 2017 I went in for day surgery to remove the cancerous tumor; I had opted to do the lumpectomy. With my husband and my family by my side I knew that I had a fighting team behind me and that whatever happened I was going to make it. After the surgery I recovered at my parents’ house, on the beach…kind of where we started this journey. I was bandaged and bruised but still in okay spirits. My husband took care of everything, from getting the kids to school with lunches, to making sure the dog got walked, to every piece of laundry being done and to the house being spotless, this man was my saving grace.
When I returned home, I had flowers on my doorstep, meals in my freezer, cards of encouragement, baskets of fruit, candy, warm blankets, books… the community had come together for me and my family. I was not alone in this fight. I had everyone on my side, in the ring, cheering for me! I was so overwhelmed with the love and support that my community gave me and my family. This will never be forgotten and I will pay it forward if the time comes.
My Oncologist strongly suggested that we need to move forward onto our next steps of treatment but first we needed to do 6 rounds of chemotherapy. These injections would be every three weeks and then Radiation Therapy for four weeks every day (Monday-Friday), and then Tamoxifen for five years. I might have lost the necklace but I know that I have found the strength and courage to win the fight against breast cancer.
In support of women like Michelle, Silver Icing is raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society Breast Cancer Futures Fund. In an effort to support this very worthy cause, we are donating $10 from every Arabesque Bra sold throughout the month of October. With your help, we’d like to improve the quality of life for those living with breast cancer and create a future without this disease.