Stay Positive and Laugh: Catherine's Story
Catherine Lybarger has stayed positive throughout her breast cancer treatment, which she credits as helping her through the experience. By sharing her story she hopes to encourage other women to be routinely screened. Meet Cathy in words and pictures, left, and hear how her art helped her heal.
In February 2010, I had a physical with my primary care physician and was told to set up my first mammogram.
I know you are supposed to start getting mammograms at 40 years old, but I blew it off. I have a tendency to ignore things right up until it's time to run for your life.
Fortunately, in July, I got a call from UW Health regarding my over due mammogram, asking if they could set up an appointment for me. So I did.
I had my initial mammogram and then was called back for another view. At the next mammogram a radiologist saw some suspicious calcifications and was called in to do an ultrasound on the right side. During the procedure, the radiologist found a second area of interest so he biopsied both.
On Friday, August the 13th, I got a call letting me know that both biopsies were cancer, one being an invasive tumor.
I had surgery to remove the 2.2 cm DCIS tumor and the invasive .6 cm HER2 positive tumor. I was on the border line for chemo therapy and had to make the decision on whether to have chemo or not. I decided to do it and started the 6 treatment TCH chemo in October. My last treatment was January 31, 2011. It has gone really well.
The side effects have either been mild or they go away after a short time. I have been able to continue working throughout treatment, with days off here and there. I am fortunate to be self-employed and able to take time off when I need to.
I had fearful expectations in the beginning. I was scared that the cancer was going to ruin everything. Mostly I was afraid that I was going to be sick all the time and that I would not be able to hang out with my friends with whom I make art and nonsense.
Art and Nonsense
Art and nonsense is my livelihood, after all. I have been pleasantly surprised by how few things I had to change.
Since I don't cook nutritious food and I like cocktails, I am not the best example for taking care of myself but I have made it through--just with fewer cocktails.
It is a mind set and mine has been to keep moving. Dr. Huie and staff have always maintained a very up beat approach, which helps curb any negative vibes.
I work with glass and it has been therapeutic to make artistic glass tumors and funny little blood cell beads and share them with my family, friends and health workers as a way to stay positive and laugh.
It is my way of letting them know that I am doing okay. When treatment is over, I intend to assemble all of my "cancer beads" into a necklace that I can display in my shop as a humorous take on the whole experience.
I am thankful that UW Health called me and took the initiative to set up my over due mammogram. I hope my story encourages women to get their regularly scheduled mammograms and to stay positive and laugh in life.