My Fight with Breast Cancer

 

(Editor’s note: Irene Freedman wrote her account of dealing with breast cancer and has graciously allowed Circling the News to print it. Blessings, prayers and healing go to this brave woman.)

By IRENE FREEDMAN  — Special to CTN.

One out of eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. As of May 15, 2023, I am one of those women. Even though I have gone for mammograms and ultrasounds every year (even every six months for the past two years) the biggest fear of my entire adult life has now become my reality.

When my mom was diagnosed in 1976, and died in 1981, my sister and I knew that the fear of breast cancer would be a real and forever thing for both of us. I just never could have imagined how paralyzing and debilitating the fear would be until I was diagnosed.

Losing my sister a few years ago to a heart attack, ironically not breast cancer, was what I thought would be the hardest thing I’d ever go through…I was wrong.

When I first met with my oncologist and he went over everything it was all so overwhelming…the fear of losing my hair, surgery, six months of chemo and possibly radiation – was all too much comprehend.

After several scans and biopsies, it was determined that I should have chemo before surgery. Cancer was found in a few lymph nodes, and it was an aggressive one.

I was petrified but my amazing friends, family and doctors were there the whole time trying to help me through the ordeal.

After the third chemo treatment my hair started to come out, A LOT, which was excruciating. I asked a friend to come over and shave it, which at least gave me the feeling of having some control over what was happening to me. It was actually empowering to gain some control back in my life.

The chemo was so hard at times that I didn’t think I could finish.

Being a teacher, I always prided myself as being a strong person who could take control of any situation and fix it.

This was something I couldn’t fix and that I had no control over. It took more than the strength that I had, and I just felt I didn’t have it anymore.

The first 12 rounds of chemo were weekly. It was very hard but tolerable.

The last four treatments were called “The Red Devil” and were given every three weeks. Boy, does it live up to its name!

It was so horrible that after the first two, I knew I was headed toward giving up. I was so sick for six straight weeks with not only chemo side effects, but also with pneumonia, a cough and an upper respiratory infection because my white count was so low.

I was so tired that I could barely lift my head off the pillow. I lost 20 lbs. because I could not eat or drink anything. It was so horrible…there really are no words.

I’ll never forget when I was talking to one of my very good friends, a retired principal, I told her I just couldn’t do it anymore and I was done.

She said, “Stop and just listen to me. I have worked with you for many years, and I know you! You taught fifth grade for 39 years. The students never opened their mouths to you, never said ‘boo’ to you, never disrespected you!

“You had some of the toughest kids ever and you were ALWAYS in control with a strength I have never seen in most people, and they LOVED you!!

“CANCER AND CHEMO HAS NOTHING ON YOU COMPARED TO TEACHING THOSE LITTLE A-HOLES for all those years! Do you hear me?!? NOTHING!!

“Now repeat this every time you think you want to give up…CANCER AND CHEMO HAS NOTHING ON ME COMPARED TO TEACHING FIFTH GRADE BRATS FOR 39 YEARS!”

She was right!!

On January 8, 2024, I completed 16 rounds of chemo and rang that bell after seven horrific months.  I still don’t know how I made it through. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.

I was ready to quit so many times, but thanks to my friends, my family and my doctors who managed to help me find that inner strength that I thought I had lost. I am so blessed and grateful to have such an amazing support system.

I got my latest scans back last week and it looks like the chemo did its job. They cannot see any visible signs of breast cancer and the lymph nodes appear to look normal although they won’t know for sure until surgery.

On February 22, I am scheduled for a double mastectomy. My prayer is that there is nothing left in the lymph nodes so that I won’t need radiation – and that this life changing journey of mine will finally come to a close…at least for now.

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2 Responses to My Fight with Breast Cancer

  1. Barry M. says:

    Thank you Irene for sharing your story, about your having the courage to continue on, despite how hard your medical treatments were for you. I wish you the very best of good health.

  2. K.C. Soll says:

    How brave and helpful to share this horrific, empowering journey. May the surgery ensure continued life fulfillment. I send prayers and thanks.

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