I had lunch with a former student of mine last week. After teaching for 23 years at Southern Methodist University, it’s always wonderful to catch up with some of the students I launched on the world. Carrie was one of those easy-to-remember students: good in class and fun to talk to. She moved on easily into life with a good job in PR and a good man to live life with. Then breast cancer hit her at 29 in 2009. It brought us back together since all my students knew I had been diagnosed young — but, jeeze, not that young. I was 37. Almost a decade older. We had lunch and I told her what I knew when she was first diagnosed in 2009.
Carrie came through it all well. And it was a bad deal. She had two positive nodes, a bad path report and was BRCA 2 positive. But she built herself back up and did the 3-Day to benefit Komen. She and her husband decided that having a baby with her highly estrogen positive tumor was not a good idea, so they got on the list to adopt.
Then she got laid off from her job in late 2010, but found another great job with AT&T in 2011 and was on track again — healthy and in training again for the 3-Day — except for this cough that just would not go away. All her scans were clear so it couldn’t be cancer she was told. Mid 2011 became late 2011 and the cough hung on. Finally a CT scan showed her what she never thought she would see again — cancer in nodes in her lung and two spots on bone. It was the same week she and her husband got a call from Houston about a baby. He had just been born. Could they get there the next day to pick him up? You bet!!!
So now Carrie has a 1-year old son named Henry and is stable after a year of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. She is training again for the 3-Day, but it’s a different kind of training, and only time will tell if she actually makes it all the way — but she is planning on it.
After we finished eating our lunch, she pulled out her pictures of Henry and we looked at pictures of her son. In the way that adopted children often do, Henry looks like her. He really does. She said that when she found out about Henry, friends were worried for her becoming a mom and coping with metastatic cancer. She can’t believe they would say that, but we both smiled knowingly about all the things the civilians from this disease don’t know. She thinks getting Henry so close to when she found out that her cancer was back was the best gift she could have gotten becasue there were days when she wouldn’t have gotten out of bed if it had not been for this little guy.
Carrie is thinking about blogging for us. I am encouraging her to tell her story to encourage other young women with metastatic disease that you are not alone. Let’s see if we can convince her.