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Breast Cancer Survivor

Michele Madrigal

“Hello fellow BC sisters!

I’d like to share my story in hopes that it helps you find a little bit more strength to keep fighting. We may not have been brought together under the best of circumstances but it is one of the gifts that BC has for us, among many others.

My journey with breast cancer began on October 6, 2011. I found the lump one day while pregnant with my youngest son. I mentioned it to my OB/GYN but we decided not to worry too much about it for multiple reasons. One, I was young, Two, I was pregnant, and Three, I had previous history of fibrocystic breasts with benign cysts on the right side many years earlier. At the time I was comfortable with the decision.

So after giving birth to my son on May 25, 2011 I began breastfeeding. One night after feeding I realized that the lump became tender to touch. I made an appointment to have it checked again. After many doctor visits and tests, it came back as breast cancer. My youngest was only 4 months old. I also had an 18 month old running around. The news crushed me because I immediately took it as a death sentence. My husband and both boys were with me at the appointment when I received the news and I squeezed them all so tightly, I didn’t want to let go. Luckily for me, my husband was a registered nurse so he took all the notes we needed to move forward.

I began neoadjunct chemotherapy as it was determined that I had TNBC and statistics showed some promise of reducing the size of the tumor. That was around November 2, 2011, my oldest son’s 2nd birthday. The first couple of chemo treatments weren’t so bad. I was just very tired. My husband was such a trooper. Unfortunately, he would only be around for two treatments. On November 29, 2011 I found him lying face down in our bathroom, not breathing, no pulse. His support on this planet left that night. I was probably in shock because I pretty much went into auto-pilot at that point. The boys and I got through Christmas with the love and support of all my friends and family. At the first of the year in 2012, I moved back to Redding for the second time to get the support of my parents who I would lean on for most of my child care needs.

I finished chemo at the end of February 2012 and by the end of March 2012 I had a double mastectomy and began reconstruction. I had started all of my treatment and care in Sacramento at UC Davis Medical Center and felt very comfortable with my oncology team so I continued to commute for all subsequent care, including surgery. After recovery from surgery it was determined that I would need radiation so I was sent to 21st Century here in Redding for that as it was every day for seven weeks. From the radiation my tissues were badly damaged and I had to start reconstruction over. I’ve had a total of six surgeries to try and get my physical body back. What I found along the way was that I didn’t need any more care or surgery because the inside is what mattered most.

Since beginning my journey through breast cancer I have strengthened not only my physical health, but my mental and spiritual health too. My faith in a higher power is so strong I can get through anything life may bring. I said that breast cancer brought many gifts before, faith was just one. I’ve also been given stronger connections with myself, my friends and my family. Even my ability to connect with strangers on a deeper level has been effected. The best gift of all has been the gift of self-love. I’ve been critical of myself for most of m y life but breast cancer has helped me to see that as a whole human being I have a dark side as well as a light side and both serve a purpose. Breast cancer has also brought me out of my comfort zone to step out and shine my light so others may see that even in the darkest of time; there is a golden nugget of wisdom to be found. My goal is for each and every one of us to embrace the whole self, to love the whole self, and to let that whole self lead us to the life we were meant to live. I hope to inspire others to keep fighting, not just cancer, but keep fighting the demons who tell you that you aren’t _______ (fill in the blank) enough. We are all enough, exactly as we are, no matter how our fight ends.”

– Michele Madrigal

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