Sisters’ Journey & WYBC Celebrate Survivors

Sisters’ Journey & WYBC Celebrate Survivors

Photo courtesy of Sisters’ Journey

 

Sisters’ Journey Survivor of the Month –  Sandra Huggins

Read her story (thanks www.sistersjourney.org)

Greetings, I am Sandra G. Huggins of Hamden, CT by way of Nevis, West Indies. I am a SURVIVOR:

I was diagnosed with Estrogen and Progesterone Positive, HER2 Negative Breast Cancer in April 2015 at the young age of 54. While in bed, minding my business one Sunday Morning, I felt a lump in my right breast that was not there the day before.  It being a Sunday, there was nothing I could do. I sure didn’t want to spend my Sunday in the emergency room. After a day of amateur diagnoses of “That doesn’t feel good,” “You’d better get that checked out,” “How long have you had that?” “It could be a cyst,” all garnered by my requests to “feel this” while pushing my breast in someone’s face, I finally decided to call my doctor’s office for an appointment the next morning.

I arrived at 10:00 a.m. and shortly thereafter I had a mammogram and ultrasound. Three days later, I had a biopsy. Five days after the biopsy, I learned that I had cancer. I received the biopsy results by email before hearing it from my doctor. By the time my doctor contacted me more than 24 hours later, I was no longer angry and had a plan of action.  “Let go and trust God.”

At the time of my diagnosis, I had a busy schedule as an attorney with my own practice, and no time for major health issues. I had clients with problems to attend to, but I knew that I had to take care of myself, and I needed to do it immediately.

I was the first in my immediate family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I had lost friends and relatives to the disease. I knew it was not good for the cancer to spread to vital organs; that if detected in earlier stages, the outcome would be better; that it did not have to be terminal. I was scared but determined that I wasn’t going to die.

I was diagnosed as Stage 2A. I elected to have a double mastectomy with flap reconstruction even though the tumor was only in the right breast. I heard so many breast or had a lumpectomy only to have the second breast, or same breast, removed later. My tumor was fast growing. Myth or no myth, I wanted it out.

The week before surgery my family and friends went out to dinner. It was an opportunity to put my team together, and to thank them in advance. On the day of surgery, July 28, 2015, my entourage convened like gangbusters on Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. We met at the chapel for prayer. Surgery was approximately 12 hours.  It was my first time as a patient in a hospital as an adult. I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, surgery went well followed by a speedy recovery.

On September 9, 2015 I began a 20-week chemotherapy treatment – every other week for the first eight weeks, then weekly for the remaining 12.  It was rough but during it all I was thankful to be alive. On January 20, 2016 we celebrated. Chemo was over!

Throughout my journey I was blessed with the most supportive team! My sisters, Debbie and Loida; my brother, Hanief; and good friend, Sharon accompanied me to my appointments, taking notes and asking many questions. They were my ears, eyes and brain. All I needed to do was show up.  Words of wisdom – never go to appointments alone, and always have a notebook handy.

Many thanks to LeRoy, Cynthia, Sandra, Jackie my nurse Gerri, my chauffeur Alexis for cutting my hair while I bawled and to the host of others who helped, who prayed for and with me, and who told me what I could and could not do. For those who stayed up with me on WhatsApp and kept me sane when I had insomnia, thank you!

In the three years since my diagnosis, I have lived with the side effects of chemo and the side effects of the side effects. I see my breast surgeon, oncologist and oncology cardiologist regularly. I recently completed the third of six infusions prescribed every six months for three years. I am in my third year of hormone blocking therapy prescribed daily for five years. I am alive!

I joke about why I was feeling my breast in the first place to discover the lump. I had a history of dense breasts since I was young and was no stranger to mammograms. My last mammogram previously was six months earlier. After more than 15 years of mammograms (many times twice a year) I detected my tumor by self-examination. My doctor once asked if I was performing self-examinations. I jokingly replied, “Yes, but I have no idea what I’m looking for”.  She said, “You’ll know.” She was right, but I never expected that the result would be cancer.

I evolved from my journey a stronger person. Strength is overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t. Life continues. I avoid stress, smile even when I don’t feel like smiling and appreciate the art of breathing.

I evolved from my journey a stronger person. Strength is overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t. Life continues. I avoid stress, smile even when I don’t feel like smiling and appreciate the art of breathing.

I am a SURVIVOR, every day that I am alive I can say, “I BEAT CANCER!”