Before I take a trip down “recent memory lane”, let me first start off by stating that my ending is just a newer beginning.
2020… After burying my stepdad, who had just died of cancer on February 1st, the pandemic was in full swing. With everything closed down, my daughter getting on my very last nerves, and the need to get out the house, my only option was the one thing that was open… my doctor’s office. (Side bar… I normally get my annual in September/October). So excited to get out of the house and to see a different setting other than the 4 walls that held me captive, I eagerly awaited that date, which was the day before my birthday, April 13th. As I am getting a thoroughly examination of my lady parts, my doctor stopped at my right breast. She began to reexamine the small lump that I was there. “Does this hurt?” “What about this?” My answers to most of her questions were no. Then, the question came, “How long has this been there?” Honestly, I think it’s been there since October 2019. Once I stated that, the sweet, Mary Poppins-type of female turned into a US Marine. She cursed me out from A to Z, repeatedly saying, “That’s why it’s called a silent killer.” She, then, got on her phone and made a few calls. She handed me a piece of paper, with an address and a date that read 4/17.
On April 17, I had an ultrasound and my very first mammogram. When that came back, it was recommended that I do a biopsy. I had a total of three biopsies. It was confirmed that I had Stage 1B, HER2 positive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. (That meant that my cancer’s feeding source was my estrogen and progesterone.) The “C” word scared the crap out of me, especially because everyone that I knew who had it, eventually lost their fight. I had just turned 36 years old and I was a single mother of a teenager. My anxiety was through the roof, and I had no clue what I was in for.
Due to the aggressive type of breast cancer that I had, my Cancer Team had to act very quickly. It was determined that the best course of treatment was to remove the cancer and then chemotherapy. I had my first huge decision to make- remove just the lump, remove just the breast, or do a double mastectomy. I chose the double mastectomy due to my left breast having clusters. (They were tested and came back benign, but I didn’t want to test those waters.) June 12, 2020, I had a double mastectomy. They removed the tumor which had developed into a Stage 2 and was growing. July 17, 2021, I started my chemotherapy treatments. My chemo was between 6-8 hours, every three weeks. I was on Herceptin, Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Perjeta. After I would finish a session, it was followed by three days of getting a shot in my abdominal area. The harsh chemo was from July 17th to October 30th, followed by immunotherapy until July 30, 2021. (Immunotherapy is still chemo, but not too harsh.)
Within that duration, I had my D-Flap reconstruction on December 3, 2020. I, also, caught CoVid and had to hospitalized July 11, 2021. With all of that, I learned so much about myself. Trust me when I say that I almost gave up three times during chemotherapy, but I learned just how strong I am and can be. I gained an understanding as to what truly mattered in this life. It changed my perspective as to what I thought I wanted and allowed me to focus on what I needed. It taught me the value the saying “life is precious” and how to seize the moment of every second.
I don’t regret anything that I have been through. So, what was meant to kill me, the past things that had no true significance, the acceptance of mediocre, that all had to end, and a new beginning had to emerge. Just like a caterpillar. They go through there cocoon stage. In the dark and away from the visual eye, the caterpillar is going through a transformation. Once it is ready to emerge, it struggles to get out of a tiny hole within the cocoon. Yet, within that struggle, it creates strength and allows the wings to fully develop. Yes, that change might be a little painful, but everything is necessary. My journey is like that caterpillar.
Survivor Katrina Smalls
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