By JoMarie Young, LPN
I’m a lot things, but mostly a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, nurse, scrapbooker, Kansas City Chiefs Fan, FOREVER ROYAL, summer lover, wanna be world traveler and Justin Timberlake’s biggest fan! I’ve worked for LSPG for ten years next month. I spend more time at work than I do at home, so when I say I love my work family, I really mean it! I love my job, and the doctors I work for are some of the most down to earth, genuine people I’ve ever have had the privilege of knowing.
When friends ask who they should take their kids to see, I answer honestly. It doesn’t matter, choose someone that fits your schedule best. I promise it’s not because I work with them and they pay me, but because I truly mean it! I work with and for some amazing professionals!
A little background…
I spent the first half of my childhood in Northeast Kansas City. One fact about me most people don’t know, Italian was my first language! (My dad is from Sicily.) The second half of my childhood, I lived in South Kansas City. I graduated from Ruskin High School in 1989. I met my husband of almost 23 years, the first day of our freshman year, August 1985. We didn’t start dating until after High School and the rest is history. Three kids later, nursing school, a Bail Bonds Business, a few moves and several pets, we now reside in Kingsville, MO. We just completed our first and LAST build job. That was a test, for sure!
D-Day: June 28th, 2012
Rewind one week prior to D-Day. I’d noticed a lump in my right breast previously but only associated it with monthly female symptoms. This time seemed different. It was the weekend, and I was having some slight pain associated with the lump. Red flags started waving! I decided I needed to call my OB/GYN first thing Monday morning and schedule an appointment. At my appointment, the doctor immediately felt what I was talking about and was concerned as well. She sent me directly downstairs to the Breast Center at St. Joseph Hospital.
They began with a mammogram, and once completed they asked that I not change. They wanted me to wait while the radiologist reviewed the films. A few minutes later, they called me back for more films as there was something they needed a few more pictures of. So of course, I obliged. Not starting to panic just yet, but anxiety is most definitely at the surface. After the second set of films, they requested I get an ultrasound. I figured I might as well, I’m already here.
During the prep for the ultrasound, the tech asked if recommended, would I consent to having a biopsy. They had the time, and the radiologist was just around the corner waiting for my images. ASOLUTELY! As you can imagine, the ultrasound confirmed something suspicious. They recommended an ultrasound guided biopsy. I was alone. While lying on the bed waiting for the doctor in this dimly lit room, tears ran down my cheeks.
I looked over at the nicest girl that was about to help guide the doctor, and asked if she could be completely honest with me. She hesitated at first but then said she would if that was what I really wanted, she would be honest. She knew what I was about to ask her. “Does this look like something I should be concerned about?” She responded with, “yes, it looks like cancer.” Now the tears are really flowing.
The biopsy was done in a flash; I was treated so well by the doctor and staff. They were kind, sensitive, understanding and gentle. After it was completed, everyone left the room and I was alone again. Alone with my own thoughts and fears. I sobbed. After pulling myself together, I was able to call my husband and request he meet me at my parents’ house. I didn’t want to go straight home for fear of our kids seeing me in that condition. I drove to my parent’s house; it was the longest 45 minute ride I’ve ever driven.
I called my nursing supervisor to explain everything and was told to take all the time I needed. I’ll never forget how my employer treated me through this whole ordeal. I will forever feel indebted to Lee’s Summit Physicians Group. Their support never wavered, not once.
I was told the results would take a few days to come in. The next three days seemed like years! NOT knowing is the worst!
We got the call Thursday afternoon. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer Stage 3B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, at the age of 41. This devastating news blindsided us, to say the least. The appointments started immediately. I met with my nurse navigator, my breast surgeon and my oncologist the VERY next day. Yes, that’s right! Within five days I’d had a mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, met with a breast surgeon and an oncologist. All of this happened on a Friday before a holiday weekend. Nothing happened the following week due to the 4th of July holiday, and as a family we needed to take some time to breathe. We took off for the lake to just be a family.
After some much needed family time, we didn’t waste any time.
July 9th my port was placed. July 11th my first of many different rounds of chemo began. Within two weeks of my diagnosis, I had started treatment. I felt like I was staring death right in the eye. I had no idea what my life was going to look like. Things were changing so fast. We were facing a huge fight. Chemo was brutal. Whatever side effect ‘could’ happen did. I had so many reactions. Days that my abdomen was so distended I looked like I was 9 months pregnant! Scary moments of anaphylaxis to drugs, to not being able to breathe, eat, drink or sleep.
Due to so many complications from chemo, the decision was made to rid my body of the tumor burden. On October 30th, 2012 I had a bilateral mastectomy. Treatment stopped temporally to allow my body to heal from the surgery, but three weeks later chemo started again. I was scared. I thought for sure Christmas 2012 was going to be my last
All in all, I had a total of 14 months of treatments that included numerous rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. The whole experience was surreal. It seemed as though I was watching another person’s life through a window. This fight was one that I couldn’t have fought without my husband, family or my ARMY! I chose to call all of my supporters JoJo’s ARMY because the support was so overwhelming; “team” just didn’t seem adequate.
Cancer sent me a challenge, it was accepted, because honestly, I didn’t have any other choice. I had kids at home that still needed a mom. One of my children was a senior in high school. I was adamant that her memories of this monumental time in her life were NOT going to be tainted with sadness. Every day I had a choice to make. My choice was to make the most of every day OR I could be sad, mad, and angry, have a pity party, ask why, and be down in the dumps. I made a promise to myself that I would make the MOST of every day, and I chose to be positive. I would be lying if I said there weren’t bad days, because there were… a lot. But I tried to keep them private. My kids are the heroes in this story; they’re where my strength came from.
As of August 2nd, 2018 I’ve been “cancer-free” for five years (post treatment). My oncologist says I’m cured. That sounds great, but coming from a cancer warrior, let me just tell you; I’m always ready for battle.
Something else you should know about my cancer story, I don’t like the word “survivor”. Maybe it’s because I have “survivor’s” guilt. Maybe because I’m always wondering when the other shoe will drop. But mostly because I’m ANGRY! I’m mad that others that fought just as hard as I did (or harder) aren’t here telling us their story! Please call it whatever you want to call it, but when you refer to me, please remember I’m cancer warrior because I stand with ALL of those affected by cancer NOT just the ones still here telling their story.