FFFC:Please introduce yourself to our readers (i.e. your name, occupation, hobbies, etc.).
AC: My name is Andrea Coleman. I am a 41 year old woman who is the single mother of one. I have worked as a nurse for 18+ years and do not have strong family history of breast cancer.
FFFC: When and how did you learn you had breast cancer?
AC: Largely because of awareness campaigns and knowledge of the fact that the mortality rate related to breast cancer was so high, I made sure to have my first mammogram at 40 as suggested. Oddly enough, that was how I was diagnosed with an early, yet aggressive breast cancer. I had no signs or symptoms. There was no lump, no nipple discharge, not even a bit of dimpling or asymmetry. Yet, I had the disease.
FFFC: What were your initial thoughts when you received the diagnosis?
AC: My first concern was for my son, then my family and friends. As a single mother, I didn’t know what would happen to him if I didn’t beat this. He was only 12 years old at the time of my diagnosis. I worried more about those around me, feeling that they would wreaked with worry for the road that lie ahead and how the story could end….Death.
FFFC: How did your family react to the news?
AC: My son had millions of questions. They ranged from the simple, “When did you find out?” and “How will we pay for this treat?” to the complex “How bad is it? Will you get better?” I don’t think that either of us could imagine life without the other. Comparatively speaking breaking it to the rest of the family was much easier. They were understanding and supportive.
FFFC: What has been your biggest challenge to date battling this?
AC: The biggest challenge for me during diagnosis (and even treatment) was accepting what “is”. I could not change the diagnosis. I could not avoid treatment and the life threatening risks that came along with trying to save my life. I had no control over whether I lived or died and who or how my son would be cared for from then out.
FFFC: How has this experience impacted your outlook on life?
AC: I considered myself a woman who stood strong in faith. Trusting God to fulfill my every need, but it was not until cancer, when I lost all control that I realized my faith had a lot of growing up to do! God brought me through diagnosis treatment and 7 months off of work without a financial worry. Individuals who had played a minimal role in my life stepped up to the plate and supported me in ways that I could not have imagined. From an attorney who helped me draft a Will in record time to travelling snow laden roads with friends to Chemotherapy in DC.
I had support coming from every angle. Earthly Angels got me through with not only their actions, but words of encouragement from afar. All the while the Lord comforted my mind and kept my son safe and cared for. He even had teachers who took him under their wing. There was not a need that He did not meet. Nor are there any that He is now neglecting. God’s Coverage over my life and this situation is all encompassing.
FFFC: What do you do differently now health wise due to your diagnosis?
AC: I had begun my transition to a healthy life style 9 months before my diagnosis. I had lost 20 lbs and was running outdoors and going to the gym regularly. But my diet was always a challenge. Since diagnosis and treatment I have taken heed to the advice of many physicians and dieticians. I have decreased my sugar intake dramatically. While I had not eaten red meat or pork for 20 years, I was surprised to learn that still, chicken and fish needed to be scaled back a bit and my plant based nutrients needed to increase. Even with exercise, I had suffered from acne prone skin, and constipation as long as I can remember, but after changing my diet post cancer…all of that has drastically improved.
FFFC: What words can you share with someone who may have just learned they have breast cancer?
AC: I would say that regardless of where your faith lies, take things one step (and even on occasion) one moment at a time. For me it took a lot of prayer and faith for the strength to make it through. There are days when you feel like you moving forward is going to be impossible. But this too shall pass. I knew that no matter how my story ended, that I would not “go down” with a defeatist attitude. Every day was new. Even if I was sick in my bed, trying to muster to strength to tackle the day ahead, I was there…in that day…for at least another day LIVING! That equaled triumph!
FFFC: What would you like to leave everyone with who is reading this post?
AC: I would probably say that we all have hurdles to leap in life. Sometimes we fall on our face, sometimes we struggle to win the race, but neglect to recognize that tackling on leg of that race is an achievement! Spend your days living, loving, laughing and learning from each experience good or bad. I am a stronger, more resilient and faithful woman post cancer. It was a challenging time in my life, but having landed where I did. I wouldn’t change a thing. Today I am “Cancer Free” and living life to the fullest.