October is a special month for me. Not only do I celebrate tying the knot with my best friend, but it’s also a month of appreciating life.
As a two-time breast cancer survivor, this is the time of year I try to share my story as much as possible—to give hope. A cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean a death sentence.
April 24, 1998, is a day I’ll never forget. It turned my world upside down. I went to see a radiologist about having a cyst aspirated—I was only thirty-five years old—and walked out with a 99.9% cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t afraid for myself; it was my daughter I was most concerned about. Being a self-employed single mother was a challenge in and of itself. Now I would need to go through chemo, radiation, and surgery, all while working to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. I had to be strong for my teenage daughter; she needed to know I would be okay.
My eventual diagnosis was Stage II, triple-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma. Say that three times fast. Things moved very quickly for me. By the end of October, I was celebrating with a ‘Hat’s Off’ party. All my guests had to wear a head covering to attend. If they came without, I was happy to oblige with one of my own. I never wore a wig—too hot for south Florida, especially during the summer. I was sporting my new chic European short haircut.
In April 2008, we took thirty of our closest friends and family on a five-day cruise to celebrate my tenth cancer-free anniversary. Just three months later, I pointed out an irregular area to my radiologist during my annual mammogram. It wasn’t a lump; it just felt different. I had taken up running, and ladies, we all know where the first area to lose fat is, right? Taking my shower that very morning, it didn’t feel normal. I wasn’t worried about it; I’d had several ‘things’ the radiologist did an ultrasound on for me over the past ten years.
I want to back up just a little. My husband, who I married in 2001, had gone to many mammogram appointments with me. I’d always come out waiving my blue card signaling everything was okay within twenty minutes at the latest. This time, after a magnified mammogram of the area, and an ultrasound, my poor man, had been waiting for over an hour for me to come out and turn directly to the nurse's window to schedule a biopsy. No blue card this time.
Within three days, I heard that nasty ‘C’ word again. This time I was Stage I, ER/PR+, invasive carcinoma. I didn’t hesitate, “Take them both. I want a double mastectomy with reconstruction.” My husband asked if I wanted to think about it. I had, for the past ten years. If I was going through this beast again, I was going to get a silver lining—new bigger, perkier breasts.
In 2018, to celebrate 10 & 20 years cancer-free, I hosted a fun nine-hole, shenanigans golf tournament for my friends and family. Those who don’t play golf helped through the course. I turned everyone’s golf game upside down, all pertaining to breast cancer, and all in good fun. For some holes, they had to drive off the tee with their shortest wedge and put with their driver. Others had to play with their partner’s clubs. Super fun to watch those who had to play opposite-hand clubs.
Next year on April 24, I’ll celebrate twenty-five years cancer-free from my first diagnosis in Australia—a bucket list item checked off. In July, the fifteen-year mark. These milestones, like my birthday, are cause for celebration. I’m toasting to life. Cheers
Most of our planet’s most beautiful locations also have their faults. Florida is mostly sunshine and has gorgeous weather year-round (especially if you’re a golfer). But we also get hurricanes. I’ve been through five major storms. Luckily for us, we did not take a direct hit (although Andrew was heading right for us and made a south turn at the last minute and hit Dade County instead).
It’s heartbreaking to see the devastation caused by Ian. Childhood summer memories in Sanibel Island and me lying on the car floorboard as we went over the seven-mile bridge and remembering the time my husband and I spent on Estero Island (Fort Myers beach). A total of 109 lives were cut short because of this disaster. In Florida, 105 of those lives perished while living in Paradise; fifty-five from Lee County alone. Another four were lost in North Carolina.
Thousands more have lost everything. Mother Nature can be a bitch, and her son Ian is proof. Please keep those affected by Ian in your thoughts.
Are you ready for more hot and steamy FREE BOOKS? Fall in Love with these Steamy reads; pick as many of them as you’d like. I grabbed a few myself … once I wiped the drool off my chin from looking at all those bare-chested men. Hubba! Hubba!
And yes, you can (in fact, please do) share this link with all your book-loving friends.