LIFE Lessons 

When you have cancer, people give you a little more grace.

By Kathleen Swift


It seemed life was blossoming for Michelle and Randall Wood when they married and blended their families in November 2016. Their children were grown and doing well, and Michelle had started a new job in January 2017. But on a Sunday in February, Michelle found a lump in her breast and knew it wasn’t normal and called her gynecologist Monday morning.

Michelle was motivated to move quickly and find out what the lump was. Her aunt had had a lump and didn’t tell anyone for almost a year, and her undiagnosed breast cancer took her life.

Always an optimist, Michelle knew 80 percent of lumps were benign. She was certain hers would be, too, and went ahead and booked a cruise, but just in case, she bought the trip insurance. And that trip would have to be put on hold.

When Michelle had her ultrasound, she could see a circular mass in her breast. She said, “That was a wake-up moment for me. I knew it wasn’t good. When Randall and I went in to get the results of the biopsy, we were taken into a room and told ‘they’ would be in to talk to us. I felt like the air was sucked out of the room when we were told by the doctor and the nurse navigator that I had breast cancer. In my mind, cancer equaled death. I was scheduled for tests, and my treatment that would depend on the staging of my cancer.”

Michelle’s life soon became a roller coaster of emotions. Initially, Michelle was told she had stage 2 breast cancer, triple positive, aggressive and fueled by hormones. Tests were run to see if the cancer was anywhere else in her body. The tests were positive for cancer in her femur and in a rib. Her diagnosis was changed to stage 4 breast cancer, a much more serious cancer.

“I was devasted and knew with stage 4 breast cancer my options would be limited. Before that could happen, my oncologist decided to biopsy my femur and rib just to make sure. The results came back negative. I was so excited to have a stage 2 diagnosis! I went to work, and they gave me a party! It seemed strange to celebrate stage 2 breast cancer, but for me, it meant I had a chance to live,” said Michelle.

Michelle chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. She was young and healthy and had been running three miles a day before her diagnosis. She also decided to immerse herself in good information and sought out success stories and found support from many sources.

Michelle found wisdom about life through her diagnosis and treatments. Through her pain, hair loss and sickness, Michelle learned some things about living from so many who had the right words for her at the right time. Now, she can share some of that wisdom with others.

“Life is a gift. The word ‘someday’ is no longer in my vocabulary. It is the here and now. If you want to do something, do it now.

“Everyone is going through battles, I just had one that could be seen through my hair loss. I was fortunate to have the love and support of my husband, my family, work family and close friends to give me the strength to fight my battle.

“When you have cancer, people give you a little more grace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could give grace without having a life-threatening disease?”

Michelle is in remission now, and that trip she had to postpone? She’s taking it this fall, not someday.