Deb: “I am determined to get back into my gardening and spending time with my grandchildren”
My name is Deb Hoogeboom. I found out I had cancer shortly after a routine physical in April of 2011, one week after I lost my job due to my work closing. My mammogram came back with a suspicious spot on it that they wanted to check. The next afternoon, I went down to Lacks Cancer Center where they did another test. The radiologist showed me what they found and explained they needed to do a biopsy. We scheduled it and I went home where I looked on the internet what the radiologist had shown me. Things didn’t look good.
There was no family history of breast cancer and after the biopsy I prayed all would be well. I tried to mentally prepare myself that it could be cancer, hoping it wasn’t. I found out on my birthday that I had invasive interductal cancer which came back positive for all the receptors which meant I would need chemotherapy regardless of what they found when I had surgery. My husband was devastated.
After meeting with the doctors and nurses, we decided to go forward with a mastectomy with reconstruction to begin right afterwards. My track record with previous surgeries was not great, so I didn’t want to have to do that with a lumpectomy and then have to have radiation on top of the chemotherapy. My husband & I decided to go this route and surgery was scheduled.
We took a vacation before it began which was a very much enjoyed time on the outer banks in North Carolina. The Monday after we returned from vacation, chemotherapy started. The first chemo wasn’t too bad. I was very positive… I can do this! I tried to stay as active as I could. After the third round, I got so sick (the nausea drugs were not working) and when my husband came home for lunch he found me throwing up and I declared “I can’t do this anymore! I quit!”. Well, he wasn’t about to let me give up and I ended up in the hospital due to a nasty infection which my oncologist told me could kill me. There was a 50% chance I would not survive. Family & friends prayed and prayed as well as my church family.
I won!!! I went home very weak but I went home. Chemotherapy resumed. When that round was done, the next round began. More infections set in and more trips to the hospital. After the third stay in the hospital, my oncologist told me chemotherapy was done as it was literally killing me. I would however continue the Herceptin treatments. The herceptin is affecting my heart function. It reduces it quite a bit, but I press on. I try to swim every day which helps reduce the stress and helps me feel better. I have a support group at the pool that have prayed for me as well and continue to ask how I am doing.
My biggest challenge with this diagnosis was times of isolation. Having to rest so much and having to ask for help. Food didn’t taste good to me but my husband still needed to eat. As he isn’t much of a cook, I asked for help with a few meals from our church. They were greatly appreciated and enjoyed . I also signed up for a support person through Lacks. She is also a breast cancer survivor and understood what I was going through. It was nice to have someone to ask questions about things and understand how I felt.
Going through this has taught me to appreciate every day. We are finally getting to the point where we can plan things again. For a while, we spent our days not knowing how things would be the next. The days still differ but I am determined to get back into my gardening and spending as much time as I can with my grandchildren. I have two girls who are married with 5 grandchildren, so I don’t have time to be sick. My treatments should be done the end of August and believe me, there will be a big celebration!
My advice to anyone facing cancer is be positive… it makes a difference in your treatment and will get you through it all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is out there!
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