Woman with terminal cancer hopes her story will save lives
Thursday, Jan 23, 2014 12:18 pm
While standing in front of the mirror about six years ago, Airdrie resident Lindsey Taylor noticed a small red spot on her right breast.
“It was a little light-reddish, smooth to the touch spot, almost like if you were stung by a bee,” Taylor wrote in a letter to Airdrie City View.
She had no family history of breast cancer and the bump was smooth and not at all like a lump, so she thought little of it and went on with her life.
“I didn’t do anything. It was just red,” she said, adding she thought it was just a heat rash that didn’t go away.
It would be two more years until she discovered that tiny, innocuous-looking red spot was a sign of breast cancer.
Taylor went to see a new doctor about four years ago after breaking her finger and decided to book a physical while she was there. She had noticed little change in the spot since it appeared two years earlier, only that it had grown by about the size of a mustard seed.
Taylor said she had been to other doctors before and had shown them the spot but they told her it wasn’t anything to worry about. This examination, however, would be different.
“When she got to the breast exam something happened I’ll never forget,” Taylor said. “She jumped back a little, her eyes got a bit wider and she told me I have a lump there.”
The doctor made an appointment for an emergency mammogram for Taylor the next morning where she was told the lump would have to be biopsied.
The results of the biopsy came back with the news no one wants to hear, it was cancer.
“It had been as if I had being driving at a fast speed all my life and someone had just reached down, slamming on the brakes,” Taylor wrote. “The brakes were screeching and the shock was setting in fast.”
The cancer had spread beyond her breast to the lymph nodes under her arms. Surgery was scheduled for two weeks later, where doctors removed part of Taylor’s right breast and 14 lymph nodes.
A few weeks later she went in for more testing where it was discovered the cancer had spread to her liver and was terminal.
“If only I knew that little spot was trying to signal me a long time ago,” she said, adding she doesn’t blame the doctors for not detecting it sooner. “It’s my fault too and I beat myself up about it.”
She said if any good is to come from her illness, it is that now she can spread the word and inform other men and women.
“A spot that appears on your breast could be an early warning signal that cancer has begun. When you go to a doctor and you show what you have found, they might say ‘it’s nothing to worry about.’ Refuse to leave the office without a mammogram appointment made,” she said. “Promise to do that, do that for me.”
“This just didn’t have to happen,” she said.
Taylor, now 55, has outlived the two-year life expectancy she was originally given four years ago. She has two daughters and two grandchildren, and pictures of them cover her living room.
“I love life, I really do,” she said.
Taylor made the decision to refuse chemotherapy and instead is on a strong cancer medication and receives monthly bone infusions of calcium and other medications.
“I don’t want to be sick, I’m sick enough,” Taylor said of refusing chemotherapy, adding it would not cure her anyway. “I have a very strong life force. I want to live just as much as the person next to me who is getting chemo. I just love life so much but I want to be able to get up and have a cup of tea without feeling sick.”
Indeed, if you were to see Taylor you would not think this woman is dying of cancer. You wouldn’t even think she was sick. She does not look like the perceived image of someone with cancer; she has all her hair and manages to keep a healthy weight on her petite frame.
Taylor said this perception of what a cancer patient “looks like” has caused some people to suggest she isn’t sick. This is something Taylor never expected and something that causes her great pain.
“If there is ever a time when someone tells you they have terminal cancer but they look good and seem full of life for quite some time, remember they have trusted you enough to tell you. Please trust them back,” she said.
She said living with a terminal illness isn’t at all easy, but it has forced her to appreciate the simple things and to really see the beauty in life.
“When you refuse chemo it’s like someone puts a loaded gun to your head and cocks it but doesn’t shoot it,” she said.
“You’re going, ‘not yet. Don’t shoot yet.’”
She is working to spread the word about warning signs of breast cancer through pink and white polka dot ribbons that represent the tiny spot that appeared as a warning on her breast.