Monday Moms

Monday Moms: 8 Years Ago Today
By Allison Gruehn

Can you remember what you were doing eight years ago today?  Eight years ago today I was preparing to go to my 7th of 8 chemo treatments.  My friend Marjorie was going with me.  The first six had all gone well and I was thankful that I had experienced very mild side effects.  My husband, parents, sister, and friends Lee, Loulie and Hart had all taken turns accompanying me.  My family and friends Katherine, Mary Margaret and Pam were on the frontline of the childcare effort to entertain my two-year old and care for my newborn.  My neighbor Caroline was organizing an ongoing stream of meals.  I often thought “Is this all really happening?”

On July 11, 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was 32 years old and 38 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child.  There was no history of breast cancer in my family.  Needless to say, we were all quite shocked.  On July 16th, following induced labor, I was holding a healthy baby girl.  Ten days later I would begin preparation for my lumpectomy:  a mammogram, an MRI and pre-op paperwork.  The lumpectomy went well, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes which meant that chemo would be needed in addition to the already-prescribed radiation.  Final pathology reports revealed that my tumor was Stage 3 and triple negative.  Chemo was very scary to me.  I knew I was going to lose my hair.  My mom, sister, my four-year old niece and I went shopping for wigs before I began chemo so that the stylist could see what my hair looked like.  It was amazing how natural my wig looked.  That gave me confidence to be out and about during my treatments.  I was also concerned that I would feel bad during chemo.  Thankfully I did not.  I did have to be careful to avoid germs and illnesses due to my compromised immune system.  My chemo was completed the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and my radiation began in mid-December.  Radiation went well with minor skin irritation.

Immediately after diagnosis genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 was recommended.  I had my blood drawn and waited 30 days for the test results.  It was a time of uncertainty—a positive test result would explain why I had developed breast cancer, but it also meant a greater chance for ovarian cancer and implications for my family:  testing for my parents and siblings, potential surgeries and the chance my children could have inherited the mutation.  Although my family history suggested a very small chance of a mutation, I tested positive for BRCA1.  At that point I decided to have an elective bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction which would take place in May 2006.  That was a difficult decision, but it was the right one for me.  In August 2006 I elected to have an oophorectomy and hysterectomy to limit my chances of ovarian cancer.  My family and friends continued serving us with more playdates, food, encouragement and prayers.

For anyone newly-diagnosed, my prayer would be that you receive the assistance and encouragement that you need so that you have time to heal.  Amongst the hundreds of cards and emails I received, one friend shared 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 with me:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”.  I was comforted by God through many people and have been honored to pay it forward as friends and acquaintances have been diagnosed.  My encouragement is that they would see the blessings in the midst of the trial.