HIV Longevity Still Fighting…


Learning How to Live After Cancer

About five years ago, I was preparing to celebrate my son's first birthday in July of 2007. Two days prior to his birthday, I received news that rocked my world and flipped it upside down. I was positive for breast cancer at age 30. It was invasive and aggressive. I was also told that it was a gene that had caused it. I am BRCA 1 positive. After picking myself up off of the floor, we got to work on starting to formulate a plan of action. First was a bi-lateral mastectomy. After the surgery, I went to Shady Grove Fertility in order to harvest eggs just in case I was not able to conceive after chemo, which was about a 50/50 chance. I had to give myself shots in the stomach twice a day, while trying to heal from my mastectomy. I was then told I would have to immediately start four months of aggressive chemotherapy. I lost all of my hair and chemo was intensely painful and absolutely exhausting.

After chemo, I had breast reconstruction surgery and the terror which is cancer started to subside. I was told I could try to conceive if I wanted to. The doctor told me it could take up to a year or more to conceive, IF I do.

I conceived four months after I had finished chemo. We were speechless and so thankful for this gift. When I told my oncologist at Georgetown, he was shocked! I gave birth to my daughter, Grace, in 2009, less than a year and a half after my diagnosis. About three months after Grace was born, I was told by my gynecologist that I needed to get my ovaries removed, due to BRCA 1 carriers having a higher incidence rate of developing ovarian cancer. So, we again had to make the decision whether to have another child. I had always wanted three children so I wasn't completely sure I wanted to stop at two. Grace was four months old when I found out that I was pregnant with my youngest, Faith. We couldn't believe it. TWO children post chemo??!! We were thrilled.

After my daughter Faith was born in March of 2010, I had surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes. At this point, I felt like a damn lab rat, being cut open and poked and pried. I was SICK OF IT! The worst part of that surgery was the immediate surgically induced menopause at 32! Even as I write this, it still amazes me that the person I am writing about is ME?! I guess I am still processing all of the past experiences and think that will continue to happen for the rest of my life.

I have had a ton of trauma and yet here I am. After many years of soul searching and falling on my face, I feel like I am in a better place than I have ever been. I think having been through all of that trauma can put a different perspective on life.

I would NEVER have had the guts to cut my hair short. I guess I figured, well shit, if I am going to lose my hair anyway, why not cut it short before it falls out and enjoy a short haircut. I loved it not only short but I LOVED being bald. It was SO freeing.

Prior to cancer, I would get bothered so easily when incidents "disrupted" my life. After cancer and three kids, my life is SO much more enjoyable because I have learned to RELAX. Everything doesn't have to be the way I think it should be. Life has an awesome way of letting you know who's really the boss. I think challenges in my life have encouraged me to start exploring who I really am.

I still hate cancer and all it stands for but I have decided it doesn't have to dictate how I am going to live my life. I try to see the good in life and realize that there are always going to be difficulties. I think it's in how we go about understanding them and processing them that makes all the difference in the end.

This guest blog was written by: Stacy O'Rear

Stacy's Bio

I am a 35-year old woman. I have a 5-year old son, a 3-year old daughter and a 2-year old daughter. I have been married for 9 years. I live in Brunswick, MD. I stay at home with my children.

I love to dance, and I'm certified to teach Zumba. I enjoy working out at the gym, lifting weights, taking fitness classes, love yoga, and prayer/meditation.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Stacy. You are a true-life inspiration and miracle!

  2. Stacy, you are an absolutely amazing woman, you define the word strength. Your fighting spirit and fierce determination are truly motivating and I am honored to be your friend.

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