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My Breast Cancer Story: The Importance of Awareness

My Breast Cancer Story

This is a story of Lalanya’s personal journey battling breast cancer, from the startling lump discovery to the heartfelt decision to undergo life-changing surgery.  Lalanya shares the emotional highs and lows of her journey, and how faith, dance, and the unwavering support of loved ones play a part in the healing process.

Throughout this journey, there were times of terrible darkness, doubt and fear. Often, I felt as though I was in a terrible dream from which I was trying to awaken. I would become overwhelmed, followed by periods of numbness. I leaned heavily into my faith with daily prayer, meditation, and grounding exercises.

It was during this difficult time that I found a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper spiritual connection which I channeled into my writing. As I journaled about my health, I developed another aspect of Dance Within called A Time Toward Healing.  I knew I had a powerful role to play in my own healing that went beyond drugs, appointments and workouts.

Dance is about more than physical activity. It is a creative and spiritual connection and I wanted to help others to soothe and mend themselves through movement. When I danced,  I felt the presence of a tremendous healing spirit.

A Time Toward Healing is designed to support individuals through their own healing process; to help them get out of their heads and celebrate the strength and power of the body, regardless of the diagnosis with the support of my family and dance, I found spiritual and physical strength, even as my diagnosis became more dire.

 I Meet My Surgeon

October 25, 2021 – Monday

I have always been aware of my body and my health. Throughout the years, I had repeatedly developed breast cysts. While they never caused me pain, I always scheduled my annual mammograms, and the results always came back benign. However, on one occasion, I noticed a lump on my right breast, which I had tested immediately. As usual, the results were benign. But, for some reason this particular lump concerned me, so I decided to have the lump (also called a cyst) removed. After COVID restrictions began to ease up, I made an appointment to see a surgeon.

When I met my surgeon, the first thing he asked me was, “What made you decide to come in and have this cyst removed?” And we both said at the same time, “Because it doesn’t belong there.” He recommended an ultrasound and a biopsy to be sure of the type of cyst I had and to determine how to approach the operation. He indicated that usually a patient like me would get a lumpectomy. Everything sounded fine. I was so glad to finally prepare to have it taken out.

Two Weeks of Tests

December 8, 2021 – Wednesday 

It was weeks before I was able to get my tests done after seeing my surgeon, which I found disturbing. Finally, I got the ultrasound, a mammogram, and a biopsy. The doctors also decided to check both breasts. They found a cyst in my left breast as well. They placed a piece of titanium near the cyst in order to locate it again.

Devastating News

December 17, 2021 – Friday 

As I was leaving the house to go to my adult ballet class, I received a call from a nurse who told me my test results. The cyst that I had noticed on my right breast was benign, but there was another cyst hidden behind it that was not. The nurse told me that I had breast cancer.

I was devastated. My husband was nearby and took the phone to ask the nurse questions as well. After the initial shock, instead of staying home and crying, I made myself go to class. I knew I would feel better dancing. For some, continuing on to class would have been too hard to do, but I knew it was the best way to help me spiritually at that moment. Later, when I called my mom, she was just as devastated as me. When I told my closest students, family and friends, they were all surprised and saddened.

A Different Life

December 18th, 2021 – Saturday

That weekend it snowed. I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling the strangeness of life, but I knew I needed to lean into my faith. I had to believe that I could heal.

My husband and I agreed that my life had forever changed. He said I was in transit, not knowing exactly where I was going to end up. Even with a good outcome, I would be in a different place in life with a very different perspective.

In order for me to heal I knew I had to accept, meditate, ground myself, keep close to my loved ones, get massages, dance and pray. Yeah. All of it!

My Second Visit to The Surgeon

December 21, 2021 – Tuesday

My husband and I met with my surgeon again. He connected me with a nurse who would answer any questions I might have. I also would work with an oncologist and a radiologist. My surgeon said by the end of January I would most likely have surgery. The whole thing felt like it was moving too slowly.

A Quiet Calm Holiday

December 25th, 2021 Saturday 

To my delight,  I had a beautiful Christmas with my mom and husband. I was actually able to relax. I received such love and support that it gave me the strength to go forward.

 Meeting the Radiologist

December 29th, 2021 – Wednesday

My husband and I met my radiologist. He explained everything regarding radiation treatment after my surgery. The radiologist felt I had a good chance to keep my breast. My surgeon felt the same way.

New Year’s Day

January 1, 2022 – Saturday 

On New Year’s Day my mother made my husband Roy and me a lovely breakfast. We talked a lot and watched movies. Yet, even with these beautiful holidays, I always had the thought of cancer in the back of my mind.

Preparing for the New Year

January 4, 2022 – Tuesday 

As the new year began, I continued going to ballet classes, weightlifting, doing Pilates, and stretching to remain strong. I even continued my dance rehearsals for my dance project. During that time, I worked with only a few students. I appreciated their remarkable support.

I was amazed that I could dance with such strength during my ballet classes and during my rehearsals for Dance Within. I realized how good I felt doing the repetitive movements to the hypnotic drum beats. It was as if my body needed to do this. Doing the movements put the living with cancer out of my mind.

Even when I was home, I used my free time dancing and working out with weights. These were my healthy coping mechanisms. These activities kept me going while living with breast cancer.  I continued my chiropractic and acupuncture visits to keep my body supple. All these things prepared me to endure the tests that I was about to undergo. All of them!

My next appointment was another meeting with my radiologist. He again explained everything to Roy and me about getting radiation after the surgery. We also did a kind of practice run of getting into the machine and everything else connected to the actual treatment. My radiologist repeated that I might be able to get a lumpectomy and keep my right breast. The cancerous cyst would be removed and I would get a minimal dose of radiation. Roy and I felt so much better hearing this from him.

And yet, nothing could shake my feelings that I was dreaming, having a nightmare, and I would eventually wake up. But it was very real. It was something that I would have to live with and live through. There were times where, no matter how much I was assured and supported, I felt I had been branded, marked. I felt that I had been made useless. I was a castoff. There were times when I lost my will to live. These moments of darkness seemed to go on and on. Then, suddenly, my energy would shift. I would calm down. I would breathe and talk to myself. I would feel real strength rise within me. I knew I could and would survive. At those times, I never felt anything so strongly.

More Tests

January 6, 2022 – Thursday 

My next examination was getting an MRI and blood tests. For the MRI, I had to lay on my stomach for nearly thirty minutes. There were loud sounds coming from the machine  and it was uncomfortable . I put myself in a meditative state and zoned everything out, including the noise. Roy was nearby and I appreciated the extra support.

Meeting the Oncologist

January 7, 2022 – Friday 

The next day, we met with my oncologist, something I was strangely afraid to do. We were shocked when she said that after checking my tests and charts, if I were to have surgery now, I would have to have a mastectomy. OMG!! I cried and cried as my husband held me tight. The situation was overwhelming. It took time for me to calm down. I couldn’t believe that for the past few weeks we had been talking about a lumpectomy and now it was a mastectomy.  She explained that my cancer was estrogen dependent and she wanted to try to shrink the tumor by blocking estrogen production in my body with Letrozole. If the drug caused the tumor to shrink, then perhaps I would keep my breast. I knew that I would try anything that would keep my breast intact. She also talked about Stage 2 and 3 cancer. This was way beyond the original possible lumpectomy and minimal radiation treatment we had expected.

We left her office.  Now, I knew I was in a nightmare. I was numb. And yet, I wanted to let everyone working on Dance Within know that I was adding a section about my breast cancer and how the dance movements could help with healing.

Shifting Emotions

January 8, 2022

I got out of bed extremely early this morning after a night of no sleep. I prayed and then I cried, cried and cried. I felt as though I were in a black hole. After feeling my pain, I decided to ground myself by standing without moving for at least 15 minutes. It was hard to do, but it helped. The exercise helped strengthen my inner resolve and feel more positive. The calm energy surrounded me, stopping the busy negativity. I had other ways of meditating and grounding myself, but I chose at that moment to stand. That afternoon as I was working around our kitchen, I had a strong sense of wellbeing, inner peace and strength.

Within a few days of beginning the estrogen blocking pill,  I noticed my tumor had become noticeably smaller. During this time, I was reminded that  I was blessed to have my family, doctors, and medicine. I prayed to come out of this with a minimum amount of damage. Over the next few weeks, I experienced a powerful energy that surrounded me. I thought I had a powerful role to play in my own healing and, hopefully, help others to heal themselves through movement. On many occasions, I felt the presence of a tremendous healing spirit.

I worried the estrogen blocking pill would create problems with movement, but thankfully, I was still limber, with no joint pain. I was able to continue my dance classes and stay in shape, even considering the stress that I was enduring. On weekends, I spent lots of time with my mom, enjoying more frequent spa days. I knew I had to remain strong for her as well.

My surgeon, my oncologist and my radiologist began to consult with each other.

After taking Letrozole, I felt my body going through changes. I began having extreme hot flashes, itching and coldness (chills). Then my body would slowly calm down. To cope with these changes, I would do a ballet barre workout and lift weights for strength. I would also get on my Pilates machine to help me stay centered with my balance. After exercising,  I would sit down and meditate, centering myself internally. Last, I would take a bubble bath to help me remain calm. I realized how this world (and my experiences in it!) was a school for the spirit. The negativity and the challenges could seem arbitrary and useless, but when you handle them as best you can, there is real benefit.

I prayed much of the day. The energy of prayer felt like the presence of SPIRIT. I felt a renewed sense of purpose in writing about my health and how it connected to my project, Dance Within – A Time Toward Healing. My faith became stronger. I rested and prepared for another test.

 The PET Scan

January 19, 2022 – Wednesday

Today, I took my PET SCAN test. During the test I was in a room alone with a warm blanket for nearly 30 minutes. Later, I was taken into a big trailer where I remained for another 30 minutes. I was glad to have the tests done. I needed to rest. Tomorrow, we have another meeting with my oncologist.

More Challenging News

The oncologist’s message wasn’t good. She told us that  I would need chemotherapy. I said I wanted to think about this. I called my mother and, of course, she was very upset. The entire problem had become confusing. It was very difficult to think clearly. I had so many things thrown in front of me- lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, and I still had to wait to schedule the operation due to the hospital’s backlog from COVID. I realized I had to sleep, think and simply rest.

Even my mom kept asking, “When are they going to do something?” She wanted it all out and she wanted it out now!

I visited mom that weekend and when I arrived it felt so good to be there.

Once again, it was a haven, a very safe place for me.

Decision Day

January 21, 2022

The night before I had to make a decision, I slept fitfully. By early morning I felt numb. My conversation with Roy made me feel better. While I was taking a bath, I realized that it was best for me to have my right breast removed. When I told Mom, she was glad, saying “You don’t want it to happen again. Get that out of you.” Roy and Mom were my angels. I was so blessed to have them with me. Very, very blessed.

Another Overwhelming Day

Days later, while I was at the dance studio, I received a call from the oncologist office. With or without a breast, I had to have chemotherapy. I might not have been able to continue to dance after that. When I arrived home I told Roy. We researched the procedure and we were concerned about the high probability of neuropathy which would destroy my dance ability.

Then I decided to call a friend to talk about my health. I was heartbroken when I discovered she could barely speak because she ALSO had breast cancer which was killing her.  OMG!! HOW SAD! I expressed my sympathy for her. I never mentioned my cancer.

Even as we had a decision to make, Roy and I continued working on Dance Within. We had a good meeting with the group about my website being a good tool for using dance in a healing way.

Decision Day

Roy and I had a ZOOM meeting with my oncologist. I decided that I did not want chemotherapy. I did not want the risk. She said she would contact my surgeons about removing my right breast. OMG!! I prayed that I would be able to get through all of this.