SEASON 2 ep 23
What to do when life throws you a curveball - My Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Well hello again, it’s me, Katy once again reigniting the airwaves on this Podcast. In my last episode way back when, I had good intentions to get back up and running with this podcast but you truly just don’t know what life is going to throw your way. So I wanted to come on here and share the biggest curveball of my life that I’ve been dealing with and where I’ve been. This episode officially marks the beginning of Season 2 of Motherhood Aligned and, not to be dramatic, but I will be, it is also marking Season 2 of my life.
Now if you’re following me on Instagram then you may already know that last year I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. So when I say life threw me a curveball, I’m really not joking. But I’m on the other side of it now because this week marks my very last cancer treatment. I have already gone through 16 rounds of intensive chemo, had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and I complete radiation this week! So, as you can see, I’ve been a little preoccupied!. But I am so proud and excited to share that I was also recently declared Cancer Free - so I have made it through the biggest part of the storm.
Now that treatment is coming to an end, I am picking up the pieces, moving forward, and spending some time reflecting on how I thrived throughout this crazy time in my life. So today I wanted to share with you what to do when life throws you a curveball.
And to be honest, this is all stuff that you should be doing ANYWAYS, not just when shit hits the fan.
So first and foremost, I’ll tell you about my diagnosis and how I found out - all of that good stuff because it’s usually the first question I get asked when someone hears I have breast cancer. And then I’ll tell you the 3 core Things I focused on to help me get through the storm. And, like I said, these things are universal. Things you should be focusing on ANYWAYS so that when life throws you a curveball you’re already ahead of the game.
So it all started with my annual mammogram. I went into that appointment knowing I felt a small lump in my left breast. And I have always been very diligent with self breast exams - and to be honest for a long time I’ve just had this uneasy feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
So I had this new small lump in my left breast and my right breast had a cyst that I knew about, but which had also gotten bigger recently.- So of course I mentioned both of these things at my appointment. We went ahead and did the mammogram, she made a note about my comments, and we called it a day. A day or 2 later I got a call saying that my mammogram came back normal. Phew! Nothing to worry about, right? Well, you already know that’s not really the case. And, in addition to that lump I’ve also known since my very first mammogram that I have dense breast tissue. If you aren’t familiar, dense breast tissue shows up the same on mammogram as cancer, they really cannot differentiate it. So I had that in the back of my mind when this report came back so called “normal” as well. Dense Breast Tissue is a whole topic in and of itself, but for now, if you have dense breast tissue please be aware of that and take it seriously.
So anyways my OBGYN called to follow up with me and we talked about how I still felt uneasy because of the lump. So we scheduled a time for me to go back in to see her and do a manual exam. She felt the lump, too, so we went ahead and scheduled a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. And since I had that cyst and I felt like it had gotten bigger she ordered the diagnostic and ultrasound for both sides.
Thank God we did both sides because it turned out that I had a suspicious spot on my right breast, the side with the cyst, not the lump I was even originally worried about. And my lymph nodes on that side looked enlarged. It just so happened that I had gotten my Covid shot the week before and that is known to enlarge your lymph nodes, so we were crossing our fingers that that is what was causing it. So they biopsied the breast and the lymph nodes. Sure enough, when the biopsies came back, I had Cancer in both.
What followed after that was a whirlwind of tests. Cat Scan, MRI, PET SCAN, Genetic testing, you name it. For those familiar with Breast Cancer Lingo I was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma wihch was ER/PR+ HER2 - but it was acting like a triple negative breast cancer and was very aggressive. It was Grade III and Stage III with advanced lymph node activity. There’s something called a Ki67 score that tells you how rapidly the cells are dividing. A score of 20% is high and more likely to be aggressive and spread quickly. Mine was 90%. Really, super high.
So this was really serious stuff, And my only focus in life quickly moved to beating cancer and healing. And as I menitoned in the beginning, I am so incredibly proud and grateful to say that that is what I did. After those 16 rounds of intensive chemo, the double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and 26 rounds of radiation I am cancer free and thriving.
So what do you do when you’re faced with a serious diagnosis or huge curveball in your life? You go back to the basics and focus on the core areas of your life that matter the most. I don’t want you to wait until you’re forced to do these things, I want you to start doing them right now.
I’ve broken this down into 3 key areas to focus on.
#1: Take ownership of your health
I mean like truly take a look at your habits and how you’re treating your body. Your health is THE most important thing in your life. When it’s taken from you, it is devastating. When I was diagnosed I just kept saying “how do I optimize my life in the ways I do have control over?” We typically know a lot of the things we *should* be doing, but make a choice to actually do them.
For me, this included making changes to my diet. I spent hours and hours researching what I should and shouldn’t be eating. I can give you some of the things I am currently doing to eat healthier if you want somewhere to start, but of course you need to do what’s best for you and make your own plan. The first thing I did was cut out sugar. I still eat fruit and natural sugars, but if there’s added sugar in something it doesn’t serve me. I also rarely drink, and if I do, it’s typically a glass or 2 of red wine. And then I focus on real foods. Foods that aren’t processed, foods that don’t have added vegetable oil, foods that only have real ingredients. That paired with drinking a ton of water. Those changes alone are good for EVERYONE to do, not just cancer patients. It is so important.
The other ways you can take ownership of your health are by exercising consistently, getting fresh air and sunlight outside, and getting enough rest. As I’m saying this I realize how basic it all sounds, but these are very basic things that many of us do not prioritize.
So I’d love for you to really think about how you can take more ownership of your health right now. Create a basic plan and start doing it. Then track how you feel. When you have a truly healthy terrain, when your body is your true priority, you’ll prevent more disease and be in a better spot to heal if you do get a curveball thrown at you.
The second key area is to Prioritize mindfulness. I’ve been prioritizing mindfulness and know it pretty well, I looked it up in the dictionary for the purposes of this episode. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Well as many of you know, I’m a Life & Parenting Coach, so mindfulness has already been a HUGE part of my life. I am so incredibly grateful that I had so many tools and practices already in place before my diagnosis and I am 100% positive that it helped me get through the roughest time of my life.
Mindfulness practices can help you regulate your emotions and decrease your stress & anxiety. It also helped me release a lot of the FEAR I had within me. I was able to be really present with my feelings, present in my life, and in relation to others. I got coached, did my own mindset work, learned new forms of meditation, and really made it a priority in my life.
If you are not prioritizing mindfulness I would recommend you start right now. Stop living on default and letting your subconscious thoughts dictate your life. If you need help with that then by all means please book a free consultation with me so we can discuss where you’re at and how I might be able to help you.
Ok, then the 3rd component I wanted to touch on today was to focus on cultivating community & connection. I was just reading an article by BetterUp on why human connection is important and it points out that
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, besides food, water, and safety, love and belonging are the most important needs we must fulfill. This includes our desire for interpersonal relationships, intimacy, to connect with others, and to be integrated into a group. When these needs are met, our overall well-being improves, and we live a more fulfilled life. The 2021 World Happiness Report found that people who experienced an increase in connectedness with others during the pandemic, which is a curveball we’ve all had to face, had:
1. Greater life satisfaction
2. More resilience
3. Better mental health
Having a strong support system helps people overcome challenges more easily and maintain a state of mental well-being. They say Human connection also decreases health risks and improves physical well-being and longevity. Strong social connections strengthen the immune system and increase your chances of a longer life by 50%.
So, find ways to cultivate community and connection. For me, I knew once I told everyone that I had cancer I’d have loved ones rallying around me, but by letting my greater community in I really had no idea just how amazing it would be. I was intentionally open with what I was going through and created opportunities for connection with friends and family.
One way I did that was by sharing my story on social media. Now I know not everybody wants to be as open as I was, but it was my way of connecting with my people. I was able to keep my friends and family involved AND connect with the breast cancer community and others going through the same thing as me.
So I know I titled this episode what to do when life throws you a curveball, but this is really what to do right now BEFORE life throws you a curveball. Focusing on these 3 areas will help you no matter what is going on in your life right now. Remember, #1 is to Take ownership of your health, #2 is to Prioritize mindfulness, and #3 is to cultivate connection and community.
And remember, if you need help creating alignment in your life, if you want to thrive, not just survive, I’m here for you. Your next best step is to get on my calendar for a free consult. Visit Katyweade.com to get started. That’s katyweade.com.
Alright, that’s it for today. Thanks for being here and I’ll catch you next time.