"Cancer is just another word in the dictionary. It doesn't define you and it most definitely doesn't control you."
Wendi is 27 years old, living in Los Angeles, CA. A little over 2 months ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer as well as metastasis to the lungs, liver, spine, and brain.
To Wendi: I remember when I first met you and you were so kind and easy to talk to. More than anything, I can really appreciate that even though you are going through something so incredibly difficult, your light is still as bright as ever. I am honored to have been given the chance to get to know more about you and your story. I think I must have cried 2 or 3 times going through your interview every time I read over the part where you say that you hated yourself for having cancer because of how it would affect your son. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him but I am sure that you are his hero, his super hero. His mother is the strongest person he knows and I think you should actually be proud of yourself for that. He will continue to grow knowing what it means to really give your best fight. ♥
Interview Date: 10/11/15
How were you diagnosed?
I had a persistent cough for about five months and congestion in the lungs. I took different over the counter medicines and nothing worked. I then went to the doctor and all he gave me was steroids and antibiotics for a week and that didn't do anything. My cough and congestion got worse and I also started to develop back pain. It got pretty bad and one day my mom decided to take me to the hospital. Once there, they took x-rays of my chest. We waited for the results and the ER doctor came and told me that I had to be admitted ASAP, this was on July 27th.
What reason did he give you for admitting you?
He said there were abnormalities in my lungs, all over my lungs. He believed it was tuberculosis so from the moment I was admitted, I was in isolation. Anyone who came in contact with me had to wear mask, gloves, and a paper hospital robe.
How long were you in isolation?
I was in isolation for a total of 4 days.
What happened in those 4 days?
In those 4 days I endured endless tests, blood being drawn like clockwork, CT scans, MRIs, echocardiograms, mammograms, and I couldn't see my son for that time either because tuberculosis had not been ruled out.
What happened after isolation?
Finally July 31st came around and an oncologist walked through my hospital room door. He told me that I had breast cancer. He specified that it was stage 4, meaning that it had already spread to my lungs, liver, spine and brain. He also said that with chemo, he could hopefully extend my life to, optimistically, 2 years.
What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
My son was the only thing that popped into my head. I thought about the pain this would cause him. I wondered how this would affect his life, how it would shape his life. I was heartbroken because I knew he would be too. I thought about all the moments in his life that I would miss. I thought about the Sunday mornings we would no longer spend in bed talking. I wondered if he was strong enough for this. I hated myself for having cancer because of all the pain it would cause him; my son, my best friend. Then I realized what I was thinking and I snapped myself out of it and looked at my oncologist and said "Okay." "Okay" to his diagnosis.
Is there a history of cancer in your family?
No. My oncologist actually apologized because he couldn't understand why I had it, an active 27 year old with no family history of cancer.
After being diagnosed, has your perspective on life changed?
My perspective on life hasn't changed much. I've always been the type to see the good, in the bad. I've always tried to stay positive regardless of the situation. I've always been "tough"; at least I think so (laughs). This is just another stepping stone in the path of life. I told myself that I would not let this situation define me, control me, or let it take over me. I told myself that I wouldn't be sad, depressed or angry because I wanted to enjoy my life with my son and my family as much as I could. Being any of those negative things wouldn't allow me that pleasure.
Who gives you strength and motivation?
My son is my strength and motivation. My family, they have gone above and beyond to do anything and everything for me. My friends have shown me so much love and support. Strangers that have never met me and have been touched by my story have been loving and supportive. I guess you can say kindness; kindness is my strength and motivation. I have never experienced this much kindness from people I know as well as people that I've never met.
Who is your support system and how have they supported you?
My family, they were there, at the hospital, every day. They have taken care of me in every which way. Their support has been beyond what I can describe. They're so strong and positive that I can't help but be strong and positive. My boyfriend, he spend days and nights with me at the hospital. He obsessed over researching everything and anything that had to do with cancer. He knows what foods feed the cancer and what kills it. He became my personal dietitian (smiles). He's also strong and positive. Both my family and my boyfriend make sure I'm always okay and never leave me in my own thoughts long enough to think anything negative. That's important.
What does your treatment consist of?
My treatment consists of chemotherapy every three weeks through a PICC line. It takes about 5-6 hours and that's because I have to be pumped with pre-meds before the actual chemo. The pre-meds prevent allergic reaction, nausea, etcetera. Once the pre-meds are done, chemo starts. I take 3 different types of chemo drugs as my cancer is very aggressive.
What words do you have for ones afraid to get checked?
I would say "Get past the fear." It is better to know, than to not. At least if you know, you can take measures in treating it. If you don't want to do it for you, do it for those that love you.
What advice or message can you provide to those who have been diagnosed?
Be strong and keep pushing. Cancer is just another word in the dictionary. It doesn't define you and it most definitely doesn't control you. You are more than "cancer".