Wendy Freden was diagnosed with stage 1A multifocal invasive breast cancer when she was 44, after feeling a lump in her breast. Now, at 45, she's cancer free, but getting there took a lot of difficult decisions.
In a post to the Love What Matters Facebook page, Freden wrote her story, from diagnosis to remission, including her decision to get a double mastectomy.
"I had a diagnostic mammogram (mammogram with an ultrasound) and was immediately scheduled for a biopsy as the radiologist was pretty sure it was malignant," Freden wrote. "The biopsy revealed I had two different primary invasive cancers connected by a line of ductal cancer (looked like a barbell) My particular cancer was fed [by] my female hormones estrogen and progesterone. I was flooded with decisions. Lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, reconstruction."
For many people who have breast cancer, the decision whether or not to get a mastectomy can be difficult and emotional. But, for Freden, the decision was easy.
"For some women, this is an emotional decision, but I had no difficulty requesting a double mastectomy," she wrote. "I never wanted to hear 'you have breast cancer' again. Three weeks after diagnosis, I had a double mastectomy. My amazing oncologist, Dr Sasha Vukelja with Texas Oncology, consulted a team of cancer specialists to specialise my 'chemo' care."
Even chemo wasn't wasn't as scary for Freden as she expected.
"I was filled with anxiety for I knew what the chemo would do to me, yet such excitement that chemo was almost behind me," she wrote. "I brought boxing gloves with me as it is tradition to 'ring' the chemo bell once your chemo is complete. I had zero intention of ringing it, I wanted to punch it off the wall."
Freden's daughter, Cameron Stokes, took photos of her mom wearing the boxing gloves on her last day of chemo and posted them to Twitter, where they went viral.
"My journey is not complete," Freden wrote in the Facebook post. "I still face a total hysterectomy to rid my body of the main source of female hormones as well as breast reconstruction and 5-10 years of an antioestrogen pill (which has it's own side effects and risks), but I can say 'YES, I AM CANCER FREE' as of today!"
As she writes, her case is not unique — everyone goes through a different set of emotions when hearing they have been diagnosed with cancer, and when they face the decisions they have to make about their healthcare.
"My case is not unique nor rare," she wrote. "More and more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer and have to walk similar journeys. It is so important to educate women about SELF DETECTION! This saved my life. Become familiar with your breast tissue. Your breast tissue is lumpy and bumpy and you may not know exactly what you are feeling, but you WILL know if something is new or different if you perform regular self breast exams.
As a Physician Assistant, I am in a position to help women educate themselves and to be their own advocate. As a woman, I can lend a personal understanding of their concerns. As a breast cancer survivor, I can understand their fear, anxiety and emotions."