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My Cancer Journey: The Good, The Bad and The Funny

by Amanda MaggiottoMetastatic Breast CancerNovember 5, 2019View more posts from Amanda Maggiotto

Nearly five years ago, shortly after my 27th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you can imagine, my world was turned upside down. With my notebook in hand, I met with lots of doctors and had lots of discussions about my plan of action.  I decided to take an aggressive approach.  I opted to undergo a double mastectomy.

Just two days before my surgery, I had been the maid of honor in one of my best friends’ wedding. Prior to my diagnosis, I had been nervous to give my MOH speech; it’s funny how your perspective changes when cancer gets thrown into the mix. I must say….. I got up there without a care in the world and nailed that speech! While I had a blast at the wedding, I couldn’t help but be reminded that my cancer diagnosis was setting back my own life goals.

After recovering from the mastectomy and subsequent breast reconstruction surgery, my life began to go back to normal. I was spending lots of time with friends and family, work was great, and most days I didn’t think about breast cancer; I had put it all behind me. In fact, my doctors suggested I do just that. We had caught it early, it had not spread and we had taken an aggressive approach.

About three years later, however, I felt a lump at the site of my mastectomy incision. A radiologist friend got me in for imaging and a biopsy right away. She then had the difficult job of telling me that the cancer was back.

After the shock, I put my game face back on and did what I needed to do to get rid of this stupid cancer! Thankfully, once again the cancer was low grade, non-invasive and hadn’t spread, so a lumpectomy and five weeks of daily radiation would do the trick. Somehow after all of that, life went on. It was even faster that I got back to normal spending time with loved ones, going out to eat, seeing movies and enjoying life.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t stop there. In July of 2017, I got the devastating news that my breast cancer was not only back, but had metastasized to my liver. Working in cancer, I knew what this meant—metastatic breast cancer is not curable. My cancer was incurable.

No one saw this coming. This was not the normal course for the cancer I had. My oncologist said that in his 30+ years of practicing, he had only seen my type of cancer turn metastatic a handful of times. Lucky me.

I cannot put into words the misery and anguish when I learned my cancer had spread. According to American Cancer Society statistics, only 27% of women with metastatic breast cancer live past five years from their diagnosis. When I hit my 5 year anniversary, I will just be 36 years old. My youngest niece, Charlotte will be celebrating her 10th birthday, my oldest nephew, Benny Boo, will be graduating from high school, my closest friends will be on baby number two and I’ll just be getting started. Thirty-six years is not enough time.

There are many emotions when it comes to being diagnosed with cancer and they aren’t all bad. In fact, I like to categorize them as “the good”, “the bad” and “the funny”.

The Bad:

The Good:

The Funny:

Amidst the good, the bad and the funny, I have found so much to be thankful for.

The Gratitude:

Lessons Learned: 

I’ve learned how much it means to people if you reach out to them when they are going through a difficult time.  A small gesture can go a long way. I will never again think “Oh, I don’t know that person that well” or “They won’t care if I reach out.”  I will also never again let my own busy schedule get in the way of sending a card, making a call, or simply being kinder to those around me.  I understand that it’s hard to know what to say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, or who has lost a loved one, but I know now that saying something—however uncomfortable it might be, is better than saying nothing at all.

I’ve learned that we all have a cross to bear. For some people it is cancer, for others it is infertility or the pain from losing a loved one. I’ve learned we all need to cut each other some slack.

I’ve learned that although life doesn’t’ always turn out the way we thought it would, or how we wanted it to, life is truly good.

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