One month before her 44th birthday, Katherine Contreras was diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer.
One month before her 44th birthday, Katherine Contreras was diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer. Having watched her mother and grandmother emerge victoriously from their breast cancer treatments, she forged ahead with little distress. After a unilateral mastectomy, lymph node dissection, TRAM Flap reconstruction, six months of chemotherapy, 30 days of radiation and a prescription for Tamoxifen, she looked at cancer in the rear-view mirror and bid it goodbye, saying hello to a new perspective on life.
But Katherine’s cancer journey was far from over. In just a year and a half from her initial diagnosis, she received news that sent her reeling into a deep depression; her cancer had metastasized, spreading from her breast to her rib cage. At that moment, Katherine lost herself in a seemingly never ending loop of unbearable thoughts; thoughts of hopelessness, thoughts of her family without her and thoughts of her life being cut short.
She began treatment and also, slowly at first, she began to emerge from the darkness. When Katherine returned to work, she found the busy days helped keep her mind off of her cancer. But in her alone time the cancer still crept into her thoughts, causing sadness, anxiety, worry, anger, and depression. Her attention became consumed by the cancer ravaging her body.
“I was at war with this cancer. Not an ideal place to be. I wasn’t really living my life, rather just waiting to die,” she recalled. At that realization, she set her mind to removing herself from the battle zone of fighting cancer and reemerging in a place of acceptance and an (almost) harmonious relationship with the cancer. It was the hardest work she had ever done.
Today, Katherine is 13 ½ years out from her metastatic cancer diagnosis, on treatment number 12. She has put two years of chemo, 90 radiation treatments, a six-week hospital stay and six months of dialysis behind her and she is at peace.
“Through my 13 plus years with metastatic breast cancer, I have learned and grown so much. I now see so clearly what is important and what is not. I have never felt more empowered to be in control of my life, my time and my energy. With metastatic breast cancer you can flourish or you can give in and wait to die. I have decided to flourish. I have decided to live and enjoy an amazing life.”