Tag Archives: mastectomy

You Just Never Know…

21 Oct

I know that everyone who knows me knows this story, but it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month… and it’s a happy story… so why not tell it again!

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You just never know what’s around life’s corner…

In June of 2010, I was busy being a wife and mother when I was given news that would change my world as I knew it. I was blindsided by a second breast cancer diagnosis. (The first diagnosis was 14 years earlier.) Thankfully, both were caught early (stage 2 in 1996; stage 1 in 2010) by my being diligent and having yearly checkups and mammograms.

Since this was my second diagnosis, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have a double mastectomy. I had a young son and a husband (who needed me!), so I was going to do everything in my power to not have this happen again. That would mean surgery, chemotherapy, Herceptin, and 5 years taking the drug Arimidex.

But my cancer story would take on an interesting and amazing twist.

While I was in the hospital, my husband read about a documentary feature film project called Life In A Day. Producers were asking people from all over the world to film their day on July 24, 2010 and send in their footage. This was an experimental documentary time capsule directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) and produced by Ridley Scott documenting one day on Earth.

July 24th, “filming day,” happened to be the day I came home from the hospital following the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. My husband Bob was hesitant about participating in the film project, but I reassured him that I was fine with documenting our personal day. I thought it sounded like an incredible project and right up his alley. (He’s a Video Editor/Producer). We thought it would be a great family project and something positive to focus on that day.

Neither of us realized at the time though, the positive impact it would have on our family. Our footage was chosen to be a central storyline in the film! We were flown to the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere, to Berlin Germany for the Berlinale Film Festival, and to London for the European premiere. Considering that we’d never been out of the country (and our son Bobby hadn’t been anywhere besides Wisconsin), it was beyond amazing for us to now be world travelers (and in a movie!)

During our film tour, we met many people who were impacted by our story of a family dealing with cancer. Many women approached us to thank us for sharing our story and they shared their cancer stories with us. The message of the movie was further evident to us when talking with families all over the world: Everyday, we all share common bonds as human beings no matter where we live on this amazing planet.

Looking back at this time in my life, some very important life lessons come shining through for me:

1) Take care of yourself by having annual checkups and mammograms. It can save your life and is as easy as scheduling an appointment. I never skipped a yearly checkup and I get chills thinking of the “what if’s”…

  • What if I didn’t have a breast exam in 1996 because I was only 37?
  • What if I had decided not to see the surgeon after the doctor felt my lump and said “I’m not worried, but I’d like you to see a surgeon.”
  • What if I had decided to skip my yearly mammogram in 2010 because I had been cancer free for 14 years
  • and what if I was just too busy being a mother?

2) Be your own advocate. If you think something doesn’t feel right or if you’re not happy with your doctor’s advice, seek out a second opinion. Go with your gut feeling because it’s telling you something important. I was blessed with incredible pro-active doctors but that’s not always the case. I’ve sat next to people during my chemotherapy treatments and listened to some heartbreaking stories in which people wish they had done just that. Listen to your heart and take action.

3) There is always a silver lining. Don’t let adversity stop you from living life to the fullest. We could have decided not to film our day, but we didn’t. We decided to keep living our lives by saying “yes,” and in return, our lives were enriched and immortalized by this incredible experience. Not only did it give us amazing memories of a lifetime, but it brought our family closer. And on a larger scale, we formed bonds with human beings all over the world—and had the time of our lives doing it!

I am a cancer survivor. I traveled the world, met amazing people and walked a red carpet with my family at my side. When I heard the word cancer again in June 2010, I could have never imagined the positive things that were ahead of me… but isn’t that the amazing thing about life?

You just never know what’s around life’s corner!

January 2011

January 2011

October 2013

Sweet Home Chicago!

30 Jul

June 29, 2011

Today Life In A Day officially premiered in theatres around the country! This little experiment that was supposed to live happily ever after on YouTube after its Sundance premiere has instead taken the world by storm. And how thrilling that we were able to travel with it from country to country–and then enjoy it right here in our hometown with our family and friends. We had a wonderful Life In A Day Chicago week…

The pre-screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown…

Reuniting with the brilliant, fun, and absolutely delightful Kevin Macdonald and Joe Walker again…

While back at the ranch, the air conditioning at our hotel wasn’t working…

Lunch the next day with Kevin and Joe at the Cheesecake Factory. When in the U.S., eat BIG. And that we did…

I don’t think Kevin or Joe ate again for a week.

On Sunday (July 24), we headed out to Rosemont with friends to see the special Anniversary showing at Rosemont 18…

It’s a real movie… right up there with Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter!

And if that wasn’t enough to keep our 15-minutes-of-fame clock ticking, we were asked to come to the NBC studios in Chicago to be interviewed for a segment on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams…

We didn’t end up on the cutting room floor either! Below is the segment that aired on Thursday night, along with an article in today’s Chicago Tribune…

NBC Nightly News – July 28, 2011

Chicago Tribune – July 29, 2011

So there it is. Life In A Day has come full circle for us. A little sad, yes… but the beauty of a circle is that it never really ends. Our Life In A Day journey will be with us forever!

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