WHO 13 NEWS – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A time to support the fighters, honor the survivors, and remember the ones we’ve lost.
From conducting interviews about breast cancer to fighting the disease herself, Calyn Thompson shares what the last year of her life has looked like.
“I think I’ve gotten into a rhythm of just every three weeks, this is what it looks like to come here [John Stoddard Cancer Center],” Calyn said at her latest immunotherapy treatment in September. “Accessing the port, seeing my doctors, getting hooked up and kind of checking it off the list… I don’t know, it puts it into perspective that you need this to be healthy and stay alive.”
“And I had found the lump beginning of November and I thought well, I better get this figured out before my birthday.”
“I ended up going to find a primary care physician…She sent me to radiologists to do the whole ultrasound, biopsy thing.”
“It did end up being invasive ductal carcinoma.”
“I did ask the radiologist, ‘Am I going to die?’ And that’s hard to think about because it was just two weeks ago [at the time] I had turned 28 years old.”
“And then it was just like such a gut punch because I just never did expect it. And I remember I was so overwhelmed because I just knew everything would change.
“It was hard for me to even say because I think it was… made it more real when I said it.”
“It was really hard to tell my parents something like that because I knew just everything would change. And no one wants to get that news but also no one really wants to share that news either.”
“But we like knew as a family, I was going to fight this. And I knew I would fight this.”
“But there’s so much you don’t know when you’re diagnosed that you do find out when you’re in the battle. And like you learn what the battle is.”
“It is Friday, December 2. It’s been two days since I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m back at the Iowa Clinic today for a mammogram and MRI so they can see what’s going on and then we’ll go from there.”
“They did find a couple more spots that they also did ultrasound and biopsies for. And even that was scary because once you find out you have cancer and then you might have more you feel like it goes from bad to worse. But then they figured out kind of where it was the size, the spread.”
“And then you meet your medical team to figure out how you’re going to tackle this. It almost makes you feel better. Because from the point when you go from diagnosis to meeting your medical team, you’re in the area of you don’t know the next steps and you’re just sitting with it. And that’s really hard. But then once you meet your medical team, and they tell you the treatment they’re thinking you do kind of have this renewed sense of okay, we’re going to do this.”
“One thing I asked right away was am I going to lose my hair? And he said yes. And that’s when I got emotional. And I felt a little vain because it wasn’t even really the diagnosis when I went to the doctor that day that was bumming me out. It was the fact that I wasn’t going to look like myself.”
“I think in this job I was scared because everyone was inviting me into their home every morning and expected me to look and act a certain way and that was going to change.”
“And I did lose some hair. I did lose my eyebrows. I did lose my lashes. I tried to hang on to every strand I could, but I just felt different. So, I think your self-esteem just changes…But then you also have to remember what you’re going through and give yourself grace.”
“When you work in the box of television, there’s a lot that people don’t see, don’t know that you’re going through and that just really hit home for me because there was so much people didn’t know.”
“And I think I wanted it that way. It wasn’t a secret, however, I think I needed to prove to myself I could get through chemo.”
“Every chemo was such a milestone and I had six. I felt like I was living my life through sixths.”
“Okay, one-sixth done. Two of six are done. Three of six are done. Four of six are done. Five of six are done. Six of six are done.”
“There have been so many people that have texted or said ‘congrats you’re done!’… I had the same thought of once I got done with chemo, I’d be done. Or I was so excited for that surgery day because that meant like just get the surgery out of the way and then I can go back to how I was, go back to normal life. But that’s the farthest from the truth.”
“I know I’m not the first person to get diagnosed with breast cancer and unfortunately, I won’t be the last. However, I want people to know that you’re not alone. I don’t share my story on this platform to be superior but to have solidarity.”
“I turned to God, and I still had questions of why me? But I also think there was a reason I went through, I’m going through this and if I can help someone else then that’s my why.”
Calyn is happy to report that she is cancer-free. Her pathology report after surgery in May came back clear, so there is no evidence of disease.
However, her treatment isn’t over. She’s undergoing immunotherapy through December and taking a hormone therapy drug for at least the next five years.
She’s grateful for her medical team, many of whom you’ll hear from this October. You’ll also meet other Iowans making a difference in cancer patients’ lives.