On Facing Breast Cancer
Finding Hope for the Journey, and Paying it Forward
by Traci Fotorny
On October 13, 2017, four words changed my life forever. That was the day I heard a nurse say, “You have breast cancer.”
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma – stage IIB, hormone receptor positive, and HER2 negative. My tumor was located in an uncommon spot at a high-traffic intersection of blood vessels and lymph vessels with lots of places for the cancer to run, and it had begun to micrometastasize into the lymph nodes.
My oncologist told me that if I didn’t follow the aggressive treatment plan he suggested, I would die within a year. That was the day I put on my boxing gloves and entered the ring for the fight of my life – the fight for my life.
I was thrown at once into a whirlwind of surgeries, blood work, scans, tests, doctor’s appointments, and treatments. My life was consumed by cancer and the fight against it. I spent five months receiving chemo treatments, followed by two months of daily radiation treatments.
Cancer taught me that I have more inner strength than I ever realized I had – I just had to dig deep to find it.
Despite everything, I never gave up hope. My faith remained steadfast and unwavering. I believed my God was bigger than my cancer, and I felt there was a higher purpose for my breast cancer journey.
The oncology nurses told me they never saw anyone smile as much as I did through treatments. They were curious to know why. My answer was because I had hope, and my faith.
Of course, there were days when I cried and felt like it was all just too much. I took it one day at a time. On a lot of days, I had to take it one minute at a time. Whenever I faced struggles, I gave myself a time limit during which I was free to feel whatever emotion I felt and express it in whichever way I needed to. Then, when the allotted time was up, I dusted myself off and made a game plan to get through whatever difficulty was in front of me.
As challenging as my cancer journey was, though, a lot of good did come out of it. Cancer changed my life. It changed my perspective. It showed me what is truly important in life. It helped me to see that all the things I worried about before cancer really weren’t that important after all.
Cancer gave me an appreciation for the little things in life and showed me that those little things are really the big things. Cancer taught me that I have more inner strength than I ever realized I had – I just had to dig deep to find it. Going through cancer deepened my faith. It also brought me closer to my family, especially to my older sisters.
After cancer, I started a ministry called Boxes of Hope. We send care packages, fabric face masks, mastectomy pillows, mastectomy drain aprons, and port pillows to women going through breast cancer treatment. It is an honor and a blessing to walk alongside these women, letting them know they’re not alone in their cancer journey and spreading hope one box at a time.
It’s my little way of paying it forward.
Traci Fotorny is a breast cancer survivor and speaker who lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and their two adult sons. Traci is the founder of Boxes of Hope Ministries. To learn more about Boxes of Hope or to request a care package, visit their website, boxesofhopeministries.square.site.
Everyone has a unique story to share. Do you want to share your survivor story? We consider a cancer survivor to be anyone living with a history of cancer – from diagnosis through the remainder of life. Here are our submission guidelines.