My Life Sentence
By Tricia Dempsey
“I’m 99% sure you have breast cancer and if your biopsy comes back negative, we will biopsy again because I’m 99% sure you have breast cancer.” Those were the words I heard from the oncologic surgeon, almost 12 months after my first mammogram for a lump I found under my arm. I had visited my gynecologist, a screening center (twice) and everyone told me the same thing: “women who have recently had a baby have lumps in their breast – this is totally normal.” I had a mammogram and ultrasound twice followed by receiving a letter in the mail saying I did not have breast cancer. I know this will sound silly, but my first thought was “I have to teach my husband how to put pony tails in Catherine’s (my 2 year old) hair.
After the initial shock of my diagnosis, the hardest call I made was to my father. Even at the age of 32, somehow I felt like I was disappointing him. I remember him answering the phone and I was crying. I finally got the words out and he was completely silent. I could tell he was crying on the other end of the phone and could not catch his breath. I was still his baby girl and the truth was, he could not fix this.
I quickly got busy researching everything – met with my oncologist and started chemo right away. I did six months of chemo before my double mastectomy and every three weeks my mom and dad would come to stay with my husband, daughter and I from Thursday to Monday morning. They would clean house, cook meals and make sure Catherine was taken care of so that my husband could really focus on me. Most of all…they were there for us every day. I am forever grateful for their support during that difficult and dark time.
Luckily, my chemo shrunk my tumor so much that they were able to get clear margins during surgery and I was on the road to being cured. Dr. Amerson told me that same day she diagnosed my cancer that the next year was going to stink but that she was confident I would live and long and healthy life. She was right. Breast cancer was not a death sentence and in so many ways, it was a life sentence. I quit my job, started my own business, shed relationships that were not positive and surrounded myself with the most important things in life – faith and family!
Every drug I was administered during my treatment was in some part funded through Susan G. Komen’s national research fund. As I learned more about the organization, I knew I wanted to do more. In 2004, I founded Agile on the Green and have raised over $200,000 for Susan G. Komen – Greater Atlanta Affiliate. When I learned more about the impact that these funds have had locally on our community and especially on women who are underinsured or uninsured I feel inspired to continue to support the mission to end breast cancer. One day, no mother (or daughter) will have to face this disease. Until then…I will fight for the cure!