It has been ten years since I heard those words, “You have invasive ductal breast cancer.” Since August 20, 2003, at 2:00 p.m., I have shared my story over and over again. I have been able to offer hope, love and support to thousands of survivors, held the hands of those whose battles were almost over, and brought awareness to those yet to be diagnosed. Being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32 was life changing, and not in a negative way like you might assume.
My list of what a cancer diagnosis has given me is far greater than the list I can write of what is has taken from me. I chose right from day one to take control. I would give thought to my cancer ten minutes a day. This is the allotted time I would give myself to cry. A good cry never hurt anything, and that daily release early on seemed to empower me to FIGHT BACK harder each day.
Once I had a plan with the great surgeons, nurses, and therapists at Vermont Cancer Center, the action began. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction two weeks after diagnosis. I remember the look on my nurse’s face the first time I saw myself after surgery. You first have to realize I went into surgery an A cup and came out a B cup. When I shared with my nurse that I think I gave myself vertigo because my breasts moved when I bent over; she was not certain it was okay to laugh! She quickly learned that I needed humor to make it through this.
I did chemotherapy for 16 weeks beginning four weeks after surgery. I completely lost all of my hair two weeks after chemo began. When the first lock fell out, my husband sprang into action and enlisted my sister to come to Vermont that evening from New Hampshire to our head shaving party. The next morning after my shower, I wasted no time startling my husband from sleep to ask him if I had a hair out of place, way in the back of my head. He was not pleased, needless to say, but we did get a chuckle out of it after he wiped the sleepy seeds from his eyes and his heart rate returned to normal.
Radiation—not like all the stories I had heard. I enjoyed the valet parking! I again was determined to have the best experience one could have given what I was working with. So each day, for the ten minutes I was there, I pictured myself inside the poster that hung directly over my head. I was not on a cold bed, in a dark room, but instead in the middle of a green field, saying over and over, “Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, grow.” My angels were with me, and I was getting stronger, not weaker each treatment.
My hair grew back—grey and curly—but it was back. It was time for me to give back.
I called the American Cancer Society in March 2004. I joined the Chittenden Relay For Life as food committee chair. Later that year they asked me to chair the event in 2005. I phoned my husband to share the good news. Concerned he stated, “Honey, don’t you think that is a bit much? Maybe you should give yourself some more time to heal?” I said, “It is bigger than that, honey, these people know something. They believe I will be alive this time next year to do this event.” He did not argue. I have held onto that for the last ten years and proudly have walked nine survivor laps at Relay with my family.
I went to work for the American Cancer Society in October of 2006. I have never regretted giving up an amazing business I proudly created, and owned for 19 years. My days with Deavitt Daycare had come to an end, but it was only because in looking at the faces of the 15 children I watched each day, I knew I had to do something so they hopefully one day would not be faced with this journey, and if they would, it would have to be a lot easier than what I had just gone through.
I look back on the progress of the last ten years, and I am proud to say I have been part of where we have come, and I look forward to knowing I will, until my last breath, be a part of where we are going. We will continue to create a world with more birthdays and less cancer … together.
Join Amy Deavitt and the South Burlington community at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on Sunday, October 20, 1 p.m. at Dorset Park to help end breast cancer forever. To register, visit makingstrideswalk.org/chittendencountyvt.
SOURCE: Amy Deavitt