What can I do? What can I say?
Help me understand what you're going through
Stories of Support
Co-Survivor: Nicole Hill
Survivor: Her mother, Nancy Hill
It was December 2005, a week before my last batch of final exams in my final year of college, when I learned that my Mom had a lump on her breast. She noticed a big problem with her left breast and knew something wasn't right. She had not had a mammogram done in the past five years, so she had no idea what was going to be in store for her this time.
They found a tumor in the breast. She had her surgery the week of my finals. I came home the day she came home from the hospital and that's when I found out that it was cancerous. She didn't want to tell me because she did not want me upset during my finals. As always, she was thinking about me before herself, and that's what I love about her.
The recovery was a rough one. She only had a partial mastectomy done, but it looked painful. Everyday my Dad and I would change the bandages and empty the drains. We did this for a week. I knew I had to stay strong for her, so I changed the bandages by myself most of the time. It was rough for my Dad. Mom finally got the drains taken out and the stitches removed, and things looked pretty good.
The phone call
About a week later, we got a call from the doctor...the cancer was still there. He had removed a large tumor, but parts were still inside of the breast. She could either have another partial or go ahead with a full mastectomy. After talking to her for a while and having our little crying session, she decided to go with the full mastectomy. We saw the oncologist and she suggested reconstructive surgery since my mom was so young (48). We saw the plastic surgeon and he had many hopeful things to tell us, but it wasn't what my mom wanted to hear. She didn’t want to be cut anymore than she absolutely had to be.
Mom had a full mastectomy of her left breast in January 2006. The recovery was a long and tedious one. She was in a bit of pain, but not nearly as much as the first time. She did develop an infection in the incision and had to be put on antibiotics for a while to get rid of the infection, but the doctor said that was fairly common for women who undergo that type of surgery. The doctor also had good news for us. He said that he was 99 percent sure he removed all the cancer. This was a good sign, but just to be sure, she still had to have chemotherapy.
She recently started her chemo treatments and she has one every three weeks. So she has two bad weeks where she is not feeling well and then one good week. She often feels nauseous, loses her appetite and just doesn't feel well overall. However, she has herself set up at home to work and despite how she may be feeling, she is up every morning, Monday - Friday, working on her computer. She is so strong that she won't let a little nausea stop her. I have so much admiration for her because I don't know how she does it. She is a miracle!
She has a few more treatments left and her hair has started to fall out. This kind of got to her a few weeks ago and she wanted to give up. We would not let her do this because we know she is strong and can withstand anything. We just keep telling her that it will all be over before she knows it. We all know she is going to beat this disease because she has been blessed with a curable kind. Her friend went through the same thing about five years ago and she survived and is now living a happy life. This is what we are looking forward to with my mom.
A special mother-daughter bond
My mom is my best friend and I don't know what I would do without her. I just thank God everyday that she can be here with me, in my life. She may look different on the outside, but she is still a caring, strong, beautiful woman on the inside. They tell us not to judge a book by its cover and she is a perfect example of that. Despite what setbacks life may throw at her, she takes it with the upper hand and challenges it. She will not let this get the best of her. I feel she is a great role model for other women experiencing the same thing. This disease has opened her eyes and has made her realize that life is too short. She realizes that she needs to devote more time to herself and her family. It's amazing that such a horrible thing can bring out the best in you. I love my Mom and will always respect her for being the amazing woman she is.
This whole ordeal has taught me to live life to its fullest because you never know what may happen next. I am now more aware of breast cancer than I ever was before and have become a bigger advocate for the program. My Dad is also becoming a big supporter. You don't realize how important the breast cancer cause is until you or someone close to you is struck by it. Earlier this year, I went to New York and lit a candle for my mom in the St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was the first time I'd set foot in a church since Christmas, and it felt good. From that moment, I knew she was going to be okay. I called her right after I did that just to tell her that she was going to be fine and that I loved her. We remain hopeful and of course pray for all those who are battling breast cancer...victims, survivors, family members, friends...
We continue to be strong advocates for breast cancer awareness and don't forget to sport our "pink" wherever we go. I wear a bracelet everyday that I bought for my Mom and myself. Every time I look at it, I think of my Mom and how beautiful she is and of course, how proud I am to be her daughter.