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By Marisa Bejar
Native of Texas, Cancer Survivor
My name is Marisa Bejar.
I’m a military wife from Texas stationed in Maryland. My boys are 10 and 8. I’m a 7-year survivor of breast cancer, as of Sept. 20, 2019.
‘Too Young to Get Breast Cancer’
I found a lump in my left breast in July 8, 2012. I went to the doctor and she told me it’s probably a clogged milk duct.
“You’re too young to get breast cancer,” the doctor told me as she put in a referral for a mammogram.
July 16 was the day I had my mammogram. I was in a room full of different-aged ladies. I got called back for my mammogram and then called back for different angles. I knew something was up because my girls were never popular. I was a size A.
I had a mammogram and an ultrasound that day.
I love the honesty of the doc. He said, “You have a mass in your left [breast] and in your right, too. I don’t know what it is, so you’ll need to have a biopsy to determine what it is.”
Aug. 13 I went for a biopsy. I was told someone will call me in two weeks.. Thankfully my doctor pushed for results in one week. He called me on Aug. 22 and said. “We have work to do. Can you and your husband come in tomorrow?”
We went in the next day and he told me I had invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast and three benign tumors in my right. I hadn’t even felt those.
Big Decisions and Breast Cancer Surgery
The doctor gave me my options and said, “You have a few days to make your decision. You are going to meet your team of doctors.”
As we walked out the door, I told my husband that I wanted a bilateral mastectomy with immediate recon, which were the expanders.
I met with my team of doctors and I loved them all. From my social worker down to my oncologist.
I had my surgery Sept. 20. They said it would take up to 5 hours. Nine-and-a-half hours later, I was in recovery.
The tumor was larger than they initially thought and it had spread to my lymph nodes under my armpit area. They removed 16, and 6 tested positive for cancer. That meant chemo and radiation would be necessary.
I did really good with my surgery. I was given exercises for me to slowly be able to raise my arms daily. My fingers slowly crawling up the wall in the shower is an example.
October is when I met my oncologist. He told me I was stage 3a her 2+.
He gave me my chemo cocktail which was ac/th. Red devil and cytoxan for 4 rounds and taxol and herceptin for the other 4. Then I’d complete a year of herceptin.
I chose to be aggressive because it was an aggressive cancer. I went every other week.
The Path to Survivorship (with Support)
A positive attitude will be needed and laughter is the best medicine.
A good support team is highly recommended. My friends and church family were amazing with bringing food. My parents moved in with us to help raise our kids so hubby could go to work or take me to my appointments.
I met some amazing, inspiring people in the chemo lab. I gained 10 pounds during it. I will say this; I went into this journey uneducated and came out knowing a lot about my illness.
I lost my hair, eyelashes. But I always saw me looking back in the mirror. Bald was temporary. I took it as the medications were doing their job.
I did 6 weeks of radiation. I went home and rested afterward. I finished in April 2013. I wore my expanders for 9 months. While they were hard and felt like rocks or baseballs, they did help me get used to the weight of the new foobs.
I got my new foobs in June 2013 and I’m living each day to the fullest.
I love meeting pink sisters, whether it’s through Facebook or in person.
For you pink sisters that are still fighting: Take it one day at a time and know you are loved and prayed for daily.
I may not know your name but he does.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of guest blog posts from Breast Friends Forever (BFF) in San Antonio, Texas (64% Latino). BFF is a support group that enables young breast cancer survivors to share stories and experiences, developed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio (the team behind Salud America!) and Susan G. Komen San Antonio. Email BFF or Visit BFF on Facebook. The main image above features Marisa Bejar.