Trisha Abbe is the President of a nonprofit for cancer patients and holds a full-time job as an executive administrator in Plano, Texas. She is also a single mother of two children and three dogs. She is an avid traveler and loves to paint and draw in her spare time. She is active in her community and does several fundraisers each year for cancer and homelessness. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46 in 2015 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
I’m a real pro at mammograms, or so I thought. On my 14th mammogram, on May 2, 2015 in Frisco, TX, I was convinced by the sweet front desk clerk to get a 3D, which I reluctantly agreed to.
As I was leaving my boyfriend at the time called with a worried voice asking how it went. I replied with "oh, it’s fine, my downstairs is the only parts I worry about, not these things." He laughed. You see, I had part of my cervix removed at age 23 and two bad paps the past two years. So my breasts were the least of my worries. I was undoubtedly wrong.
A few days later I was called back for an ultrasound and subsequent biopsy, which proved to be the C. I was stunned. You see, I have always been more of a purple girl and pink just doesn’t work for me. I immediately called and set up an appointment with a surgeon to get a mastectomy, something I already decided would happen after seeing my sister go through breast cancer at age 36. I was 46 now and did not need them anymore.
During my surgery appointment I was told they had caught it early and that I would be able to have a lumpectomy and if my lymph nodes were negative I would probably just have to have radiation and do five years of Tamoxifen. I mulled this over for a few days before agreeing with the surgeon to proceed without a mastectomy.
The morning of my surgery I lathered up with lidocaine looking like I had dipped my boob in whipped cream. My sister and I laughed hysterically. Why not. I looked ridiculous. Now what? Let’s twirl me around while she and my daughter commence wrapping me with Saran Wrap. I don’t know how much more awkward this could possibly get. And yes, we took pics, which I shared with my boyfriend and girlfriends. I had to find a reason to laugh. I was given Valium to keep me calm tor a procedure that involved a needle and my nipple. What the hell?
My best friend couldn’t come in so she stayed outside the door. She said the nurses were outside laughing at her because she had her ear to the door ready to break in at any moment. I was so dazed I had no idea.
Post-surgery was hard. Very hard. You see, I was blessed with very large breasts. The surgeon forgot to explain gravity. The minute I took off my cute little tube top I was in so much pain I blacked out. Thankfully my sister and daughter were in the restroom with me to aid in my shower. I never made it that far. I ended up back in bed smelling like a goat for the next few days. The fear of the pain was worse than my stinky self. I eventually made it to the shower but I held my boob for weeks. I became pretty good at being one handed. An invention of a boob sling that is made of mesh is needed please, stat.
I continued to have upsets along the way, including being told I would have to endure chemotherapy as my cancer, although only Stage 1 and small, was the strongest grade and was almost completely out of my duct. I again elected for a mastectomy only to be told, sure, you can have them removed, but your cancer is most likely in your blood stream now and therefore, it would be pointless. I was angry, but I wasn’t going to let this control me. I decided to laugh at this stupid thing and go and get a new hairstyle and color my hair purple.
I arrived at my first chemo, with my purple do, thinking I was all brave and all, but shaking like a leaf. I had fought hard and won four rounds versus eight rounds and CT versus ACT. I thought I had won the lottery, yet here I was scared out of my mind. I sat down and the woman across from me, Comula, told me to let the tears fall now because I didn’t have to act all tough anymore. The tears bubbled to the bottom of my eye lid and fell over freely.
I tried one more hairstyle before finding my lap full of hair after just one week of chemo. I called in as many friends and family members as I could for a hair funeral. The loss of my hair, while traumatic, was also cathartic. I felt like GI Jane.
The rest of my treatment was on my terms. I was sick, I lost 10 pounds each round and couldn’t walk after each Neulasta shot. I was miserable but I made light of it on every Facebook post. I pointed out my great weight loss program, the fact I didn’t have to shave and that my skin was so baby soft it was irresistible. I was determined to finish everything by Christmas. My last chemo was almost delayed due to my deteriorating health but I refused to skip it. I was a very stubborn patient, but I made it through it. The same thing happened at my radiation. The equipment they needed the last week did not come in, so I doubled up to finish in time. I was completely exhausted. I finished up the last task of a full hysterectomy on Dec. 1. I made it just in the nick of time.
I am no different than any other survivor. Each ache, pain, or other unexplained health condition has my oncologist rushing me through tests and/or scans. So far, I’m OK. I now live in the here and now. I am present in every moment and living my life to the fullest. I started a nonprofit this year and will do everything I can do to make sure things are easier for my brothers and sisters.
Laughter does make it easier. I still hate pink but I will wear it now proudly.