Standing Together

What helps most is sharing stories with others and loving each other through it.

By Kathleen Swift

It takes courage to share a personal story. For Dee Sallee, sharing her journey as a breast cancer survivor was an opportunity.

“I decided to share my story because I wanted to remove some of the fear that a person experiences when he or she finds something abnormal in her breast. I don’t look like someone who’s had breast cancer. I didn’t lose my hair or have a mastectomy because I found mine early.

“I found the lump myself in August of 2016. The lump I found felt like a pea. I was scared at first, and I did put off going to the doctor because I didn’t know if I could handle dealing with breast cancer. But in the back of my mind, a voice was screaming ‘check this out!’

“When I went to my primary care physician, he asked if it hurt. I told him yes, and he said he didn’t think it was anything to worry about because breast cancer doesn’t hurt. That didn’t feel right to me, so I asked for a mammogram anyway.”

After the mammogram was read, they immediately ordered an ultrasound. That’s when Dee’s life changed.

“I had a biopsy done and found out within a few days it was breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy, which took a portion of my breast and lymph nodes from my right underarm. I did 33 radiation treatments over half of December 2016 and all of January of 2017. I had extreme fatigue, but I would go for a radiation treatment at 8 am and be at work by 9 am. I would be tired, but I pushed through. I would sometimes take a nap during my lunch time. I had to force myself to eat, but I knew that my body was trying to heal.”

Sometimes a person has adverse reactions to some of the medications that are prescribed. “I had an allergic reaction to one of the estrogen blockers I was taking, and it caused blisters on my skin,” said Dee. “I had to change doctors because of my insurance, and I found it hard to get someone to listen. The blisters were not one of the usual side effects of the drug. If you know something isn’t right, make yourself heard. Once I was able to get back to my original doctor, she put me on a different medication, and the severe blisters I had went away. You may have some hefty side effects, but if you know what those are, you can be prepared, and you can know if something isn’t normal.”

Dee has had clear tests since her surgery and treatment. She continues to take prevention medications to guard against reoccurrence and will for the next 4 years.

“Every person’s experience is unique, and every treatment is different,” said Dee. “What helps most is sharing stories with others and loving each other through it. All of us who have gone through this in some way are changed by it forever, but we stand together. My survivor tattoo is a pink ribbon with the word ‘grateful.’ And I am.”