Monday Moms

Monday Moms: Rainbow
By Zoi Tikou-Gounaris

My 8 year old daughter loves rainbows. I love them too. They represent the promise from God that all will be okay after a big storm. That is what happened to me almost 2 years ago when I heard the news that I had breast cancer.

A BRCA genetic test saved my life. I had an itching sensation in my left breast, but my doctor indicated it was nothing to be worried about.  But deep in my heart, I knew something was wrong.  So I followed my instinct and convinced my doctor that I needed the BRAC genetic test due to my family history.  The test came back positive, and an ultrasound found my cancer.  Only 2 months earlier, I had a clear mammogram.

I am really blessed. I did not cry and as is typical of me.  I dived into books to figure this out.  As days passed, they were filled with books, doctor visits, decisions and positive thoughts. Yes, in the middle of this storm, my focus was how to stay positive and see the rainbow. I was young (42 years old) with two young children (7 and 2 years old) and a wife of a handsome good man. I could not and should not think anything negative. I told my daughter that I would have an operation on my breast because they found a “bug” inside it. She asked me how this came into my breast. My answer was: “I do not know, but I do know two things: One is that I will focus on my diet and exercise to make sure that it will not come back again, and the second is that I will make my breast look really good.” Both goals have been accomplished.

My kids and husband were my inspiration and support group throughout the process. I did not want them to see me suffer, and that was really important for my young kids. I was very blessed that I did not need to have radiation or chemotherapy.  My focus was on how soon I could get up from the bed and start running and riding my bike. Within a month from my bilateral mastectomy, I was strolling the roads of Portland (one of our favorite cities) with my husband, and within two months I ran a 5K, pushing my son in a stroller the whole way.

The last 3 years was the perfect storm for me. My mother was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer (she is the biggest fighter I have ever met in my life), my beloved older sister was diagnosed with carcinoid tumors (she passed away August 23rd, 2013 at age 47), and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The word cancer went from being unknown, to very familiar to one that imparted no fear in me.  I do not know how long I will live (actually most of us do not know), but I do know that I will have a full, passionate life.

For all women, mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters who are facing breast cancer, do not be afraid.  Think of the rainbow.  It will come soon.