Believe in something greater than yourself. Faith makes everything possible. Too many of us live moment to moment without thinking of long-term. Thinking long-term means, you want to take care of yourself so that you’re always present and always able to enjoy the day. You can only do this if you’re at your peak.
Start with little steps. You don’t have to do it all at once. What folks don’t realize is that doing the hard thing is easier if done in little baby steps. This can empower you and give you a sense of control. It’s a way of empowerment. The goal is finding your true faith.
The Five% Advantage is a book written by Gwen Rich to highlight her journey and demonstrates how she used community to defy her own odds. Download your copy now.
The Rich Resource Library is filled with online video courses that empower you with the knowledge to make better choices in all areas of your life. Empowered Health and Finding Faith Again combine Gwen’s personal experiences with solid science. Click here to discover all the Rich Resource Library has to offer.
My name is Lainie Rich and I am a 13-year breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed when I was 32 years old. At the time I had a four-month old and a two-year old. One night in the shower I felt a lump under my arm pit. I froze. I had never felt this before and panic started to set in. When I was 17 my mother passed away from ovarian cancer when she was only 43 years old.
I saw my doctor in the Early Detection for Ovarian Cancer program and as soon as he felt the lump he sent me to go get an ultra sound. I could just tell by his reaction to feeling it that it wasn’t good. As soon as they saw the ultra sound they said I needed a mammogram – my first because I was too young to get one yet. Then after that – a biopsy. As I was getting prepped for the biopsy the radiologist said, “We’re concerned about this.” I think that’s all I had to hear to know what the outcome was going to be.
Waiting the next day was like sitting on pins and needles. And then I got THAT phone call – DON’T HAVE GOOD NEWS. IT’S MALIGNANT. YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER. Four days later I’m meeting the breast surgeon and she recommends I get a bilateral mastectomy – huh? I didn’t expect to hear that! I also got tested for the BRCA gene. With my history (my father’s sister also passed away from ovarian cancer at a young age, and being an Ashkenazi Jew) she believed I had an 80% chance of being positive for the gene mutation. Of course, I tested positive for the BRCA-1 mutation. This is why they treated my disease as aggressively as possible.
About a month later I had the surgery and started the process for implant reconstruction. Thank goodness it didn’t spread to my lymph nodes and that I was estrogen positive. However, due to the size of the tumor I had to have chemotherapy. All I could think about was when my mom was sick and on chemo. I was completely freaked out and scared. And to add to the massive fear and stress, I had two little boys that I didn’t want to leave motherless. So, the fight began.
After 4 rounds of a combination of two different chemos, I was done. Then it was another surgery to remove my ovaries. 32 years old and into instant menopause. It was five years of Tamoxifen followed by five years of Arimidex.
It took awhile to feel back to normal that year. Sometimes I would just stop and ask myself, “What the f —- happened to me? What did I just go through?” But when my hair started growing back and I got stronger and stronger each day, I started to feel like the old Lainie. And I got a great pair of boobs!
Ever since then I feel so grateful that I am here today, healthy! Do I still get scared or nervous if I don’t feel well or I have an unusual pain? And that I have BRCA-1? Yes! It’s hard not to go there. If I can give any advice it’s to know your body. Do self exams. If something’s not right, go to the doctor.
It had almost been one year since my 43 year old brother died from a 10 day “battle” with brain cancer, and self care wasn’t anywhere on my to-do list. Thank goodness for the reminder card from my OBGYN. I was a year overdue for my mammogram. Being only 41 so I wasn’t used to the process, or too worried about it either. But low and behold, just a few days after my first mammogram, I received the news, cancer in my right breast. In the weeks to follow I underwent an MRI (something I strongly recommend) that picked up a BIGGER tumor that the mammogram had missed. That finding made the course of treatment easy. Mastectomy here I come, and yes I wore lipstick!
Because the cancer was stage 0, and non aggressive, I didn’t have to undergo radiation or chemotherapy. I chose reconstruction, and other than the discomfort of the tissue expander, it was relatively a breeze. Two weeks after my mastectomy I was Christmas shopping and I was on the road to recovery!
Four years later, deja vu! My left breast had two small tumors, two different types of cancer, with a third type brewing. Here we go again! Mastectomy number 2, with reconstruction following. I knew the drill, so this time around it wasn’t as daunting. Reconstruction as easier this time, recovery seemed easier. It was different this time however. This time I was doing it alone. My husband and I were going thru a divorce.
In the next few months I healed, physically and emotionally and as my life was showing signs normalcy, my sweet mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Just when I think I can’t possibly endure one more life event, kaboom. This one hit like a freight train. Don’t ever underestimate what you are capable of….it’s really quite surprising how strong and resilient we can be.
There is so much more to “my story” but I wanted to keep it on track. I was going thru so much at once with my mom, my divorce, it was like a bad movie. looking back I have no idea how I got thru that time ….sense of humor and smiling…
Like many women, approaching the age of 40, I went to my doctor to see if everything was OK and had my breasts checked for lumps. Unfortunately, the doctor found one and didn’t like what he found. He called an oncologist nearby, and in a short time I was heading for an appointment on the other side of town. By the time I reached the office area, I had planned my remaining years because I was sure that “this was not going to be good.”
As it turned out, the lump was a cyst which needed to be aspirated and I was relieved. This began my mammogram check ups and visits to the Oncologist every October for thirty five years.In mid October of 2006, I went to the hospital mammography department for my annual check-up.
A day later I got a phone call to tell me that there was a spot on the ex-ray and I should make an appointment to see my doctor. And this I did. We talked about options and who was the best doctor for me to see. I made and appointment in Denver, and was pleased with the first visit. Everyone went out of their way to make me comfortable and helped me to understand what was ahead and how things were to be handled. I had exams, x-rays, testing and lots of probing.
At the time, it seemed endless but I am sure that it helped determine what should be done.I had checked out my cancer stage on the internet and perhaps that is what kept me from being concerned or afraid. Maybe it was the attitude of the nurses and doctors at the cancer treatment center. Maybe it was my family support. But I know the prayer quilt which was given to me by my church was probably the most comforting of all things. That small quilt went with me before, during and after my surgery. I felt close to those who had prayed for me. It gave me great comfort! And I was not worried.
Six weeks later I was having an out patient surgical removal of the lump on my breast. Thankfully. it proved to be early stage and without additional growth to the breast. Two months later I had intensive radiation twice a day for one week and then nothing more but follow-up checkups. And to this day, thankfully, there has been no return of the cancer.When my daughter informed us of her cancer, I sent my prayer quilt to her, hoping it would give her the same comfort I received!