Conversation with … Becky Shaw
Sky-Hi Daily News
Becky Shaw, 39. Living in Tabernash since 1991. Owns a property management business, and plays in Claddagh, a local Irish band. She plays the piccolo, the flute and sings, and has been with the band for three years.
Becky lives with her husband, Jim, and two children, Morgan, 7, and Elliot, 9.
Q. When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
A. Mid-June 2007. Three years ago, I had a palpable lump, which many women have ” normal changes in the breast tissue. So I was just having that checked out again, and that was fine, but while I was there, the mammogram showed white specs that started to group together. That’s what they biopsied. Eighty-five to 90 percent of the time, those calcifications are nothing.
The cancer was only 1.8 to 2.5 millimeters of a cell. That’s what’s scary. The MRI barely saw it. That’s why women need to get checked. They say get checked when you’re 40, but I know through my own research there are a lot more women under 40 that have breast cancer.
Q. What was your first reaction ?
A. (Chuckles) Uhm . . . yeah, right? First they said it was Ductal carcinoma in situ. It was supposed to be Stage 0. Then I had surgery and it was upgraded to Stage 2A, which is still an early form of breast cancer, but it moved to the lymph nodes. That often happens with cancer actually, but I couldn’t believe it because Jim just got diagnosed with prostate cancer in May.
Q. How did your family react?
A. I don’t think the kids really got it ” they got it once my hair fell out. It came out all in one day in the shower. I did it while the kids where in bed. Then I woke them up in the morning and said OK ” I took my hat off and Morgan’s jaw dropped. Elliot figured it would happen, it didn’t really phase him. Jim was logical. When we first found out, he was kind of like, ‘Let’s get it taken care of, what do we have to do?’
Q. What kind of treatment are you undergoing?
A. There are a lot of options. Lumpectomy is where they take the infected area out, and you have to get radiation. I heard too many stories that if you just get that, it comes back. With me it would have . . . so I’m very happy I chose to get a bilateral mastectomy. Jim said, ‘If you don’t have boobs, you can’t get breast cancer.’ So we took them off. That should have been all I had to do, but since pathology came back and saw it moved to my two lymph nodes, I had to do chemo. That adds 10 percent to the likelihood that it won’t reoccur ” that helps my chances a great deal. I get chemo every three weeks, six times. I’m half way there. After that I’ll take an oral medication for years. That’s why with breast cancer there’s “no cure.” You just have to keep monitoring.
Q. How does the treatment affect you in your every-day routine?
A. Well, I don’t have to brush my hair anymore. (Laughs) And I get to wear a cool variety of hats and scarves. I take a lot of naps, which I hate. I don’t like feeling icky. I’ve really increased my fruit and veggie intake. I’ve just relied on the community really ” friends and family ” to help with everything, from child care, dinners, cleaning my house. I (used to) vacuum every day, so I went through vacuum withdrawal. Seriously. I have four Dysons. So my friends come over to vacuum for me. I also haven’t been able to run or bike ” not because of chemo, but because of surgery.
Q. What’s the hardest part of the treatment?
A. The hardest part of the whole thing was . . . well, the treatment itself isn’t the hardest part. It was the decisions I had to make about the treatment that I wanted that was hard. Now I know what I need to do ” it’s all outlined. Before that I had to decide (what treatment I wanted), and there were a lot of decisions to make. It’s like too many people giving you too much information. The hardest part about chemo is the physical symptoms of being sick and not being able to exercise like I want to.
Q. What’s the best thing to come out of it so far?
A. I’m getting a boob job. (Laughs) I didn’t have boobs to begin with ” you know, I’m a runner; I have runner’s boobs. Now I’ll actually be able to fill a bathing suit. But on a serious note, the importance of family time. Now I think maybe I’ll put the vacuum away and read a book to the kids instead. I’ve gotten better at that. There’s just certain things that don’t seem as important as they used to be. People say that happens when you have an experience like this, and it’s true.
Q. What are you battling right now?
A. My insurance company. (Sighs) You pay them religiously every month, but then when you really need them, they aren’t there for you. I have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses they said they were covering, but they’re not. They have covered thousands, but they haven’t covered what they’ve promised. Jim is on the phone with them a lot.
Q. If you had a message for women, what would it be?
A. Get checked early and often, regardless how much it costs or if insurance will cover it.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. There’s so many people to thank I don’t even know how to. A friend puts food in my freezer every week. I get loaded up with great food. People I don’t even know are bringing dinners, sending me cards. The community is just amazing, their generosity.
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