Tri-Valley SOCKs (Stepping Out for Cancer Kures)
SHADIA LUJAN: 2019 Bra Walk Honoree
Breast Cancer Survivor Shadia Lujan shares her story ...
... July 24, 2018….a sunny day…..a Tuesday….my friends birthday…the day that I will never forget. The day that changed my life forever. The day that I sat in the unknown, not knowing what my future held. The day I hugged my kids extra tight. The day I was so thankful for marrying the man that I did. The day I had to make a call to my mom that I never thought I would ever have to make. The day my doctor called and told me, “Shadia, I’m so sorry to tell you that your mammogram and biopsy results came back and it IS cancer. The day that I collapsed to the ground for the first time. The day that felt like a dream and quickly became a nightmare.
I had my second son, Preston on January 17, 2018. With Paxton, (my 3 ½ year old), I never made much milk so he was a predominantly formula fed baby. With Preston,
I started pumping right away and made so much breast milk, I had to buy a deep freezer just to store the extra. When I was around 7 months pregnant, I had felt lumps in my armpit so I went to see my doctor and she had me get a mammogram, just to be safe. She told me it was probably milk ducts filling up because I was getting ready to have the baby. I never felt this with my first because I barely made any milk with Paxton, so this was all new to me. I got my mammogram and they told me everything was fine. I told myself to stop being crazy.
Now, fast-forward 7 months. I started to notice a large lump on the top left part of my left breast. I figured I was just being crazy again and it was clearly a clogged milk duct. After all, there is no known cancer on my mom or my dad’s side of the family so it obviously wasn’t that. After about a month and a half, it still had not gone away. By this time, I had already stopped pumping about a month prior. I made an appointment with my doctor to hopefully get my “clogged milk duct” drained. I saw my doctor and she gave me a referral to get a mammogram with
ultrasound. I went a few days later and after they did the mammogram, they had me stay to get a biopsy. They also told me that they were going to put a marker in the lump and into an enlarged lymph node that they noticed in my left armpit. I guess I should have known then.
I went home and was told that I would get results on Tuesday, which to me just meant that I would get a confirmation that it was a clogged milk duct and they would set an appointment for me to get it drained. So many signs that this clearly wasn’t just a clogged milk duct. So many signs that something was obviously wrong. So many signs that I just seemed to miss.
Tuesday morning arrived and I kissed my husband, Jason, goodbye before he left for work, I got the kids up and went on with our normal Tuesday routine (breakfast, make Paxton’s lunch for school, drop Paxton off, come home and put Preston down for his morning nap). Then….my phone rang. I missed the first call and then it rang again. It was my doctor. It was THE phone call. That dreaded phone call that you could never prepare yourself for.
A few hours later, I received a call from an oncologist’s office saying that the oncologist was going to see me that same day. I will never forget walking into that office, sitting down and immediately asking her, “Am I going to die?” She quickly
grabbed my hand and looked me straight into the eye and told me that I was not
going to die, she had a plan for me and that this is where I have to become a fighter. I think I must have blacked out for the next hour because my memory of that visit is so foggy. I remember her saying I have triple negative invasive ductal cancer. I remember her saying that the mass was 6.1 centimeters and that I had one enlarged
lymph node that tested negative. I remember her saying that I was on the border of Stage 2/3 because of the size of my mass. I remember her giving me the biggest hug and telling me that I’ve got this. Three days later, I turned 38 and tried to celebrate my birthday as best as I could. Three days after that I had my port surgery (the very first time I have ever been put under for a surgery) and 6 days after that I went in for my first chemo. The plan was 4 rounds of AC (Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide chemo drugs) and a Neulasta shot every other week, and then 12 rounds of Taxol every week.
After my second round of AC, my hair started to fall out. I don’t think any woman can ever prepare herself for an experience like that. The doctors told me that it would start to fall out after the second round and it would fall out quickly. And that is exactly what happened. It started to fall out on Tuesday and
by Saturday, it was time. That terrifying moment when I realized it was time to cut it all off. I was scared, angry, sad and embarrassed that my hair would no longer be a part of my identity. I walked up to my husband and told him that today was the day. My hair was half dead and hanging by a thread. It was all over me…hundreds of shedding hairs. I will never forget that feeling. Like a hundred bugs crawling all around your body and you just can’t get them off. I instantly started to cry and told him I needed to leave the house (I didn’t want my kids to see me cry.) We left the house (thankfully my mom was also at my house so she was able to watch the kids) and I cried for about an hour. Once I could get myself together, I was ready to go back home. I REFUSED to let my kids see me down. I went home and Paxton, my 3 year old, came into the bathroom with us and held my hand while my husband shaved off all my hair. I never knew that the very next moment would lead the way to how I was going to get through chemo. I turned to Paxton, braced myself, and asked
what he thought of mommy with no hair... and he said ..... "AWESOME!" That one word was the moment that I realized that I could do this. How could I not when that little face was staring at me, even with no hair, looking at me like I was the most beautiful person in the world. That was the moment that I told myself that I was not going to let cancer take over my life. It was not going to define me, but rather, be a part of me. I told myself and everyone else, “I have 2 young kids!!! I don’t have time for cancer!” Don’t get me wrong, I have had many tough moments and sometimes, even tougher days. I often question how this has happened to me. I’m terrified all the time that something will happen and I won’t be here to see my kids grow up. I fear that I will never know what it is
like to wake up and feel at peace because I will constantly think something is in my body somewhere. I think all the time how much I miss my old life, when I was carefree and not afraid all the time. But then I try to remember that my new life is pretty great too. We live our lives to the FULLEST, in a way that we never did before. We enjoy each and every moment like it will be the last. We love each other so deeply, in a way I could have never imagined. And most of all, we remember to laugh. We laugh so hard, our bellies hurt. I truly believe laughter is food for the soul.
I will never understand why or how this happened to me. But I also realize that I don’t need to.
I’ve been told numerous times that being positive really affects how you feel. With hundreds of prayers being sent my way and staying positive, I was fortunate enough to get through 16 rounds of chemo with very minimal side effects. I didn’t have time for side effects… I had things to do, errands to run, play dates to attend, LIFE TO LIVE! I didn’t have time to be sad, I had two kids that I was fighting for and an amazing husband I wanted to stay positive for. I wanted to show all three of my boys that I am the superhero they see me as.
I finished my 16th round of chemo on December 17, 2018 and was able to enjoy a month off to celebrate the holidays and Preston’s 1st birthday before my surgery on January 23, 2019, which will be a partial mastectomy on my left breast with a left axillary sentinel node biopsy and possible axillary lymph node dissection. I also have a plastic surgeon joining the surgery to do a left breast construction with adjacent tissue transfer and right breast reduction. As I get ready for radiation, I know that I will be okay because I am UNSTOPPABLE!