Five Years and Counting

ribbonI don’t often write about my personal life in this space. My First Light Designs blog was created to document my sewing and quilting life, with occasional forays into two other pursuits I enjoy very much: travel and fine dining.

But today is cause for special celebration, as it marks both the end of my treatment for breast cancer and the fact that I have reached the five year mark following radiation without discovery of a recurrence.

On Nov. 17, 2010 — the day after my 60th birthday — I learned I had breast cancer. The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, coming as it did after two mammograms, an ultrasound, an MRI, and a needle biopsy. At each step a health care professional would say, “It may turn out to be nothing but we want to make sure.”

As cancers go, I was pretty lucky. The diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage 1. Detected early, thanks to a routine mammogram and a second reader of that mammogram, who saw something the first reader didn’t.

First came the lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy, the latter to see if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. When I woke up from surgery and learned the nodes were free of cancer, I rejoiced, as it meant I would not have to undergo chemotherapy. Instead I had 35 radiation treatments, and when those were over I began a five-year regimen of Arimidex, an “aromatase inhibitor.” That’s a fancy way of saying “estrogen blocker,” since the type of cancer I had was estrogen receptive.

The last pill container is now empty, the prescription non-renewable.

Conventional wisdom is that if a cancer patient gets to the five-year mark without a recurrence, the odds of a recurrence decrease dramatically. Still, there are no guarantees in this life. One of the dearest people in the world to me was just a few months beyond her five-year mark when it was discovered her cancer had returned. She lived with it for 15 more years but was still only 63 years old when she died of metastatic breast cancer. I am already two years older than she was when she died. How I wish she could have lived longer!

I take nothing for granted. I am grateful for every day. I count myself incredibly lucky to have good health, a loving family, and the time and opportunity to sew and craft and quilt. Given the size of my fabric stash, I hope to live a very long time.




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25 Responses to Five Years and Counting

  1. Lisa D'Andrea says:

    Thank you for sharing this story, and the milestone to celebrate. Let’s all do our best to enjoy every minute we have!

  2. Debi Weinert says:

    God bless you. Thank you for sharing your story. Your courage will help others to follow through on their regular examinations, and to seek second opinions.
    Glad you’re celebrating a five year anniversary – wishing many more!

  3. Sandy Eacker says:

    Congratulations, my dear friend. What wonderful news!

  4. Tracy Hayes says:

    And there was much rejoicing for and with our darling Dawn! ♡

  5. Sandy says:

    Dawn, your message gave me goose bumps. I had no idea! My sister is about five years out also (stage 4 breast cancer), so I will rejoice over your good news too. I am so grateful for your good news! Sew on and enjoy life!

  6. Vickie says:

    Definitely a “Let them eat cake” day. This is such great news. Continue to live each day to its fullest, enjoying your family, friends, art and every sinful morsel that crosses your lips. Thank you for sharing!
    Peace and prayers

  7. Diane says:

    I am so happy you have reached this milestone! As your twin, I simply cannot fathom a world without you in it and I promise you I have never and will never take you for granted. xxxooo Diane

  8. Lisa Phillips says:

    Blessings to you, Dawn, and a healthy long life.

  9. Jeanne says:

    Woohoo!!! Happy to have you in my life. You are a blessing.

  10. Claudia McCarter says:

    So happy to hear your wonderful news. You are so special. So full of life and fun!

  11. Marie says:

    Dawn, may your blessings continue for many years to come. I am 4 years plus in remission for Stage 3 ovarian cancer and like you feel so blessed. May God continue to watch over and bless you.

  12. Jane Hitchcock says:

    I was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 aged 47. Had a double mastectomy, no reconstruction – who wants to put more foreign rubbish into your body having got rid of the last? Did chemo, Aridimex etc and have been fit, well and healthy since.
    My advice? Now you have it out of your system, forget you ever had it. I never think about it or dwell on it. It is filed in the life experience box!
    Good luck!

  13. Colleen says:

    I am so grateful for the wonderful outcome of your journey. You have been such a delight in my life. I treasure your friendship beyond measure, and am thrilled for you to have arrived at such a landmark with a long, bright future ahead of you. Here’s to many more blessings to come!!

  14. Thank you for sharing this important anniversary! I am happy you made it to the five-year mark. That’s wonderful news!

  15. Auntie Em says:

    Congratulations on reaching such a big milestone! Wishing you many happy, healthy years to come.

  16. Cathy says:

    Dearest Dawn! Congrats and WOO HOO!!! Most definite reason to celebrate! Every day is a gift from God! Enjoy your milestone and know that you kicked cancer’s butt!!! xox

  17. PeggyB says:

    Congrats to you and let us all pray that one day they find either a preventative medicine or a cure for this damnable disease (and WHAT is taking so long). Just remember, as long as you have stash you can’t die so keep buying – I know I will! Again congrats to you!

  18. Stephani in N. TX says:

    Hats off to you for your positive attitude and for gett’n through it all. A bright living and quilting future ahead.

  19. Claudia says:

    What happy news and I wish you all the best for the future. Sending you greetings from Germany

  20. Kristi says:

    Congratulations on this wonderful milestone! And thank you for sharing this difficult journey with your friends and fans. Sew on!

  21. So happy to hear your fabulous news! Congratulations! I am grateful to see your light shine!

  22. Suzette Shoulders says:

    Dawn, I read your entry today and thought of how very many women I know and have known who have or had breast cancer. I keep thinking there must be a key to turn off those cancers, somewhere. I keep hoping someone will find that key! I have walked in our ‘Race for the Cure’ a couple of times here in Bend, and I wear a hand-lettered breast cancer fabric (ribbons) with the names of those who I’ve known with breast cancer. Gives a spring to my step. Thanks for sharing with us all… makes us be sure to schedule our mammograms! We all have big stashes to use up, and miles to go before we sleep! Suzette

  23. I’m so glad I found you in blog land and have gotten to know you through our comments and posts. I’m very happy to hear that you have reached this milestone! I’m also sad that you have suffered through this undoubtedly stressful time in your life. I always sense joy and appreciation of life in your blog posts and look forward to seeing them each week. Congrats and let’s buy some more into that stash… we’ve got time!

  24. Anne says:

    Dearest Dawn, Congratulation to your disciplined five year battle! You Won!! Now we have something to celebrate. Oh that champagne will taste so good! Big hugs and love to the most amazing woman I know!

  25. Linda Dyer says:

    Congratulations, Dawn. You are such a special woman and now to reach this very special landmark is almost overwhelming. Enjoy every day (and every quilt). You are the best!

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