My name is Laura Wassef. I am married to my high school sweetheart. I am a mother of three, the oldest 13-years old. I am a sister, daughter, niece, aunt, cousin and friend, and a breast cancer survivor. This is my story.
January 2011, just a few days before my 42nd birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My life became a whirlwind of emotions, doctors’ appointments and unanswered questions.
But having said that, I knew I only had one option, and that was to fight. I had to be okay. Life is a journey, and cancer was just going to be a detour for me.
I had chemo every other week for four months, eight total rounds. Then I had surgery, and then 33 days of radiation.
September 2011, I was finally finished with all of my treatment and declared “Cancer Free.” My days of doctors’ appointments and treatments were now at an end.
Three months later, I had my follow up appointments and still all was clear.
The only complaint I had was lymphedema, poor circulation in the lymphatic system due to the removal of lymph nodes (which was only two) and radiation. It is uncomfortable, due to the swelling, but with a compression sleeve, exercise and massage therapy, it is manageable, although it is not curable.
In June, I was due for a PET scan. In my lymph nodes, near my collar bone there were more cancer cells. Because of the location they could not be removed so my only option was chemo and radiation, again. Thank goodness this time the chemo was only a pill that I took by mouth, and I would not lose my hair again.
So, I was due to start 25 more treatments of radiation. Although this time there was a problem.
The previous summer was not a fun summer for my kids, and this was supposed to be our “fun” summer. We had already paid for an exotic beach vacation, and I didn’t want anyone to miss out on that. So I went to my doctors and asked if we could either postpone my treatment start date til after our vacation or if we could do three weeks before and two weeks after.
Postponing treatment was not an option, but splitting the treatment up was possible. Not ideal, but probably not significantly harmful either.
So, treatment started, we went on vacation. It was the best vacation ever.
Then, Monday after our return on Saturday, I began radiation treatment again. I finished the Friday before school started for my kids, August 24, 2012.
Through it all, I had amazing support from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. One lady pulled me aside in a wig shop to pray for me. Friends brought scarves, hats and jewelry so I looked good for treatment. They also provided books and magazines to help the time pass and meals for my kids so my husband and I did not have to worry about cooking.
It was an amazing experience.
No one plans on getting cancer. No one wants cancer, but for me cancer was a gift.
It reminded me not to sweat the small stuff, not to judge. You don’t know what that person is going through or why they are the way that they are.
It reminded me how blessed I am to have my family and friends. It showed me how powerful faith can be. But, most importantly, it taught me how powerful a smile, or words of encouragement can be.
How has it changed me? I tell the ones that are close to me that I love them more often. I thank God for giving me the time that I had with those that are no longer here.
And I try to drop a note, or take a minute to call a friend going through treatment. I know it will bring a smile to their face, and it will inspire them to keep fighting.
This blog post was contributed by Laura Wassef, a wife, mother of three, and breast cancer patient.