Message from a Breast Cancer Survivor

Near the end of my senior year in high school, I got a phone call from my boyfriend as I was walking out of the school to go home. I didn’t think anything of it when I answered the call. My boyfriend on the other end, was quiet and he said the words that changed everything: “My mom was just diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.”

I felt my heart sink down into my stomach. He started to explain the situation to me and I broke down. We didn’t know where to go from there.

That summer, I stayed with my boyfriend and his family. I gained a new family and had gained another mom. With this came the pain of someone I loved going through something so tough. I never doubted my boyfriend’s mother, Hallie Adolf. She was, and still is, one of strongest women I know. She rocked her bald head and kept going to the gym. She was often tired, yet she was still this badass, hard working mom that I could only wish to be some day.

October is breast cancer awareness month and I am urging women to be proactive. But I’m not the expert. Hallie Adolf had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She is now a cancer free woman that has something to say to other women, all women.

This is her story.

Q: When and how did you find out you had breast cancer?

Hallie: I had a biopsy for a suspicious looking mass and they called me and it was cancer.

Q: What stage was your cancer and what was your initial response to the news?

Hallie: [It was stage 1] My my first reaction was, “I knew it” and I was upset.

Q: What happened next?

Hallie: I told Max [my son] and cried and then pulled it together and told him it would be fine. I knew I just had to keep going forward.

Q: How did you tell your family, and how did they support you?

Hallie: I just told them and they all seemed like, “Ok… mom can do this. No big deal.” Jay [my husband] went to doctors’ appointments with me.

Q: First you had a lumpectomy, tell me about that. What happened?

Hallie: The lumpectomy… well it was a better option than mastectomy. That’s what my doctor recommended. They used a savvy scout to tag and locate the masses… cool technology. The surgery was easy. I’ve had three c sections and they were hard and an ACL repair. This was a walk in the park compared to those. The pain wasn’t bad, I didn’t even use the pain pills they gave me. They removed three lymph nodes that showed no cancer. So, I have two scars but still have my breasts and nipples.

Q: How was your chemotherapy experience/radiation experience?

Hallie: Chemo and radiation were fine. Chemo was worse than radiation but not too bad. [I was] tired mostly and sometimes my taste was affected. The people at both treatment centers made it so much better to deal with.

Q: What were the names of the treatment centers?

Hallie: Jersey Shore Medical Center Hope Tower for radiation and the lumpectomy. Regional Center Cancer Care in Howell [NJ] for chemotherapy.

Q: What was the single most difficult obstacle?

Hallie: Having thoughts of death…[and] trying to push them back and not dwell on that.

Q: How did you keep yourself active and continue being productive during the process of getting better?

Hallie: I hate not being active so I tried my best to do something physical every day, even just walking. Plus, having three kids and a husband keeps me busy!

Q: Cancer is a big deal. How did being diagnosed change you in any way, mentally, physically etc?

Hallie: I have noticed people are nicer to me when I look sick or bald... strangers [too]. And I think why not be nice to everyone all the time? I already try to do that but not everyone is like that. Being bald has been kinda hard because I loved my long hair. I feel like being bald makes others uncomfortable. Even with cancer, I seemed to worry about other people’s feelings more than my own. It’s the caretaker in me. The mental aspects of having cancer is the hardest… but I just knew I had to be strong.

Q: As a woman, how do you stay empowered or strong through this life changing diagnosis?

Hallie: I stay strong for my family. I know I am very strong, so I just keep on swimming! I want my kids to know that when shit gets ugly in life you just have to push through and make the best of it. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. So many other people have it so much worse.

Q: What would you say to someone that has not yet gotten tested?

Hallie: Testing means getting regular mammograms and pap smears. Cancer is treatable now with early diagnosis. It is not a death sentence like it used to be.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice for women battling cancer right now?

Hallie: Stay positive. There is so much information out there but sometimes too much is not a good thing. Use your intuition and if you like your doctor, trust them and read what they give you. Don’t go googling everything or you will overwhelm yourself. My husband said most people don’t put on the web [the] good stories about their experience. It’s mostly people with bad experiences. But there are plenty of people with great cancer experiences. That sounds funny.

Q: Final thoughts?

Hallie: Technology is amazing these days and only getting better. People should welcome the science being done out there!