My Breast Cancer Journey: I’m Free

Miss me? It’s been well over a month since I’ve shared here how things have been going. The past month by far has been the hardest of all of it. The chemo, the fatigue, the endless doctor appointments… all of it. You would probably think, but Martha – you finished chemo, you could relax and gear up for the big surgery, why so bad?! Trust me, I had big plans for those three weeks off – including lots of yoga, visits with friends and family, weekend plans and mostly celebrating! Well, my body and 20 weeks of cumulative chemotherapy had other plans…

But before I get there, I need to share my incredible news. I actually found out last Friday but have been holding it close to me for some reason, not really ready to share it with the world…maybe I was worried I’d jinx it, or somehow it wasn’t actually my reality. The truth is, Friday afternoon I got a call from my breast surgeon regarding the pathology report of the tissue taken out during surgery. It ALL came back negative. Every cell. The chemotherapy did it’s job and there is no evidence of cancer remaining. It worked. I am officially free of cancer. Which makes the past month all worth it. I am so relieved.

Okay, now that the happy stuff is out there… here’s the recap. 🙂

I finished my last chemo treatment on September 19th. I don’t know why but walking in that day I was so anxious. It is such a weird thing, finishing chemo. Obviously it’s awesome that you’re DONE, but then you’re also left sort of in this area where you’re floating, all alone and it’s just…. over.

I didn’t feel well that morning. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t felt good in weeks (thanks cumulative chemotherapy – I wrote about it here). My head was fuzzy, I felt weak and I was just ready to be done. But I was greeted with beautiful flowers, the smiling faces of my favorite nurses and family, and all the happy tears and joy of completing such a tough 5 months. I walked out of there feeling very proud.

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The weeks between chemo and surgery were so hard. Much, much harder than I anticipated. I was wiped out physically, my emotions were all over the board and I was terrified for surgery. I wanted so badly to bounce back and enjoy the “freedom” but unfortunately I caught a cold thanks to my non-immune system situation, and then experienced crippling vertigo for more than a week. Holy shit, I hope none of you EVER have vertigo. Seriously. It was horrible.

There were a lot of days during those few weeks where I cried and wished I could fast forward, or backward or just hide until it was over. I wondered why me? I hated myself for being too weak to help cook dinner or give Dane a bath. I mourned old-Martha and asked God if I would ever know her again – because it didn’t seem possible she was still in there. I was scared. SO scared for surgery. I was a mess. I think, no, I know – it was rock bottom. I pulled away from my friends, social media – even this blog. It was just too hard to articulate.

Of course, there were good things that happened during the time off – I was able to get back to yoga (my saving grace), I scheduled myself for weekly massages with an incredible woman in my area who specializes in healing touch. I connected with fellow survivors that gave me sound advice and truly helped me on my journey. I enjoyed a few special weekends with friends and family even if I wasn’t at my best, and I slowly started to grow my courage to face my upcoming, life altering major surgery. Slowly, slowly the chemo started exiting my system and my brain cleared back up just in time for the big day.


Surgery day came, I put my big girl pants on and arrived to battle with courage and a whole heck of a lot of support behind me. I should take a second here to thank everyone who texted, called, messaged, or supported me in any way that week – even though I didn’t respond to all of them, they did NOT go unnoticed. To my family that came to the hospital, including my brother all the way from Fargo – knowing you were there on the other side meant the world to me.

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Everything went smoothly during my 5 hour surgery, where my breast surgeon Dr. Pettit removed both of my breasts and my left sentinel lymph node for biopsy. Once she finished her part, my plastic surgeon Dr. Sonderman began the reconstruction process. Right now, I have what they call tissue expanders, which we will gradually fill up and stretch the skin until I’m ready for the implants. I will have a second surgery early next year to complete the process which may include skin and fat grafting as well. Until yesterday, I had four drains hanging from my sides to collect the extra fluid in the cavities where my breast tissue once was. I was able to go down to just two drains after a very positive meeting with Dr. Sonderman and hope to have those taken out next week!

As of now, I’m still sleeping in the recliner at night – it keeps me on my back and elevated which helps with the swelling and draining. I’m feeling well enough to cut out the narcotics for pain and am moving around easier each day, trying to slowly spend more time outside and taking walks. I can still snuggle with Dane as long as we remind him of my “owies” and that is one of the biggest rewards of all.

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I am constantly blown away by the love and support I receive every day from my tribe. This journey has been long and so difficult and during each section I’ve found the courage to keep going largely because of my support crew.

So what’s next for me? Next week I see my whole dream team, my oncologist, my breast surgeon and my plastic surgeon. We’ll review the results of the pathology from surgery in more detail, talk about when check-ins will happen, and make sure everything is healing properly. I know that the next few months will include a lot of hard work for me including regular physical therapy appointments, finding a routine again and learning to love this new version of my body. There will be a lot of residual things I still have to deal with too. Chemo treatment isn’t over loooong after the actual infusions. I still have “chemo brain” from time to time, my hair is slowly starting to make it’s reappearance (it’s dark with a lot more gray than I’d like… but I’ll take it) and my eyelashes are tiny little babies. The eyebrows are still non existent and I look a little like an alien, but I’m ALIVE and I can deal with it.

I can’t wait to be cleared for exercise so I can get my strength back, I can’t wait to go back to work and feel like a regular person. I can’t wait to put together a cute outfit that doesn’t include sweatpants and a zip front shirt…. bring it on.

Life after cancer is going to look very different for me – I’m making a lot of changes in all areas. From the foods I choose to eat, to the products I purchase and especially how I live. Mostly I hope to help other people who are going through it, dealing with it in their family or affected in any way by cancer. It hasn’t been easy for me to share my journey, but it has been so worth it. xo

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Wisconsin girl, breast cancer survivor, wife and mama. Lover of food, red wine and laughs. Forever grateful for my wonderful life.

25 thoughts on “My Breast Cancer Journey: I’m Free

  1. I only joined your journey recently Martha and I am so pleased to hear such great news. You have been on such a roller coaster and survived. I’m am genuinely delighted 😀I wish you all the very best and look forward to reading all about your journey back to full health 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Martha
    We don’t know each other. I used to work with your mother in-law, Betty. Your journey is inspiring, but it sucks. One of those deals where it’s not supposed to happen to good people, or people so very young. I am happy about your good news of being cancer free and pray your life can return to normal in the very near future. Thank you for sharing your very personal journey. You ARE in my prayers even though we don’t know each other.

    Barb Athas

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is all uphill from here! I had my implant surgery a month ago and, well, you can call me Perky! Not the path I would have chosen to get perky boobs but after all this I’ll take them.
    After all this, I just like to be outside and breathe in that fresh air as deep as my lungs will let me.
    Is it cleansing? I think I’m just so grateful.
    It was a very down and out summer and even things I use to dread doing, I enjoy. Because I can do them. There is definitely a silver lining. Glad
    to hear you’re doing so well. And like a book I have says, you are, More Beautiful Than Before!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a brave soul you are. Your journey has been incredible. I pray you continue with only positive and encouraging news from your cancer team. I highly recommend you invest in Native deodorant. I have purchased it for all my female family and friends as it contains no aluminum it is on the internet!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Old college friends of your in laws. You are brave, you are inspiring and you are a beautiful inside and out. We pray for you every week. May the peace of our creator be with you always. John & Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As always, when th our mom shares th our blog, I am so impressed with your ability to articulate your feelings so well. I can’t help but think (whenever I read your words, that life just doesn’t seem fair sometimes. You are an inspiration Martha and I know your mom is so proud of you. As always, you and your family are in my thoughts and I keep you close. ❤

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  7. Martha, you don’t know me. I am friends with your in-laws. Thank you for sharing your journey. Most people don’t know or understand what it’s like to go through what you and your family have gone through. I hate that this has happened to you, but I love that you have turned it into something that could help many. You are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am so so so happy for you Martha!! What an incredible support group/family you have!! I have some of the very same photos that you’ve taken of yourself (especially the drains) of when my mom fought breast cancer. She’s 7 years cancer free. You are a beautiful woman (with or without eyebrows!) inside and out and one tough cookie. I admire your strength and courage and while I hate it that you got breast cancer it has been an honor to follow your journey and pray for you. God Bless You Martha!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Martha your a true warrior!!! You are in my thoughts and prayers as you continue to heal. 🙏❤️🙏
    YOUR ONE AMAZING WOMAN‼️

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  10. Oh Martha, I am so glad to hear that good news…You are such a strong and positive young lady….and have only good things coming your way…continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers…God Bless…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing!! I have a 10 month old son and just found out I have a high genetic risk for breast cancer, even though I’m only 37. Go for my first mammogram today. Before him, I would have been “what will be will be,” but now there just feels like so much more at stake. It’s terrifying. Thank you for your bravery.

    Liked by 1 person

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