By Stephanie Coleman
Editor’s Note: As we mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Alliance of Channel Women acknowledges that many – far too many – of its members are personally impacted by this disease. We encourage our members to be mindful of early detection for ourselves and our families. It’s a frightening diagnosis and a very personal experience. So, we’re extremely grateful to ACW Member Stephanie Coleman for sharing her inspiring story about surviving breast cancer.
On August 9th, 2016, at 2:16 p.m., I was on a project call when I got the call from my doctor with the biopsy results. I talked to him for a couple of minutes, and he referred me to an oncologist. I thanked him and then finished my call. I remember thinking to myself that I had to call my husband and how I was going to tell him that my fear had come true and how this was going to change our lives.
I was prepared for the call because I just KNEW that I had breast cancer. How did I know that? I had regular mammograms for seven years, and they always came back clean. I did self-examinations in the shower. There was no history of any cancer in my family, I never smoked, and I was active. Hell, I had run a 300-mile relay just the month before with my team. I knew because I knew my body.
I pushed my doctor to give me a diagnostic mammogram even though I had my yearly exam only seven months earlier. The lump they said was just a cyst kept growing, and I knew that was not normal. Being assertive and knowing my body saved my life.
On August 17th, 2016, I was officially diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. It had spread from my right breast to the lymph nodes in my right arm.
Through the process — and it was a long one — I needed to become as knowledgeable as possible for each stage of my treatment so that I could make the best decisions for my care when the options were presented to me. I can honestly say that it was the hardest thing that I have ever been through in my life. But I made it through.
Don’t get me wrong — there were plenty of tears, and a few times that I wanted to stop the treatments, but I genuinely feel that cancer changed me for the better.
I know that sounds odd, but it helped me realize the stuff that matters in my life. I’m more patient, not only with others but with myself. I am more empathetic and sympathetic to others because I have been in their shoes. I learned how to ask for help, but more importantly, to accept the help others were offering.
I came out of this experience with confidence I never had before. With no breasts and no hair, was I a woman? The answer was, “YES!” I had to love myself for who I was, not for how I looked.
I am 18 months cancer-free, and here are a few lessons that cancer taught me:
- Get your yearly mammogram and do your self-examinations.
- Be your own advocate in all aspects of your life.
- Cherish the family and friends that you have, as they will help you get through the tough stuff.
- You are much stronger than you think.
- Love yourself for who you are.
About the Author
Stephanie Coleman is the Director of Project Management for Telarus, a role she’s held for more than five years. She lives in Salt Lake City Utah and is the mother of two sons.