Staci’s Story

April 25, 2018… That day changed my life.  The day I got the call from the doctor in Denver who performed the biopsy on my left breast and told me I had breast cancer.  Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.  She said a nurse would be in touch with me to schedule an MRI, genetic testing, and a pre op appointment with a breast surgeon in Denver.  My mind was spinning.  How can I have breast cancer? There is no history of it in my family.  What happens next? How do I tell my husband and our daughter who is graduating from high school in 1 month and our 14 year old son? What do I do? I was terrified.

May 3, 2018… Had an MRI in Denver.  Sitting in the waiting room with my husband, I could not stop shaking.  I was so scared.  I tried to be positive and try and think, “They caught it early”, “I will be fine”.  But it was hard to think positive while walking back to the MRI machine. It was huge and loud and I was so afraid.  Got done with the MRI and headed next door to talk with a genetic counselor.  She told us about the breast cancer gene and the other 45 or 46 genes in our body. We decided to test all the genes for any abnormalities, especially if I had the breast cancer gene.  What if I had that gene? She told me we would address that when we knew one way or the other. I had read about people with the breast cancer gene had a mastectomy. Oh my.  All I could think is why is this happening to me? I am young, only 44, my 45th birthday is in 20 days.  How can I even be thinking about celebrations right now? Our daughter’s high school graduation in 17 days. How can I keep it together with all our friends and family?  We then met the surgeon.  She explained to us the different ways things could go.  Lumpectomy. Mastectomy. Chemotherapy.  Radiation.  All of these words I never thought I would hear while talking to a doctor about my life.  She made a phone call to the MRI technician.  No cancer has spread to my lymph nodes. Good News. She said the next step was waiting.  Depending on the genetic test results would determine if I was to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. The 3 weeks we had to wait for the genetic testing results was the longest 3 weeks of my life.  I had the ‘gut feeling’ of bad news.  Again, I tried to stay positive, but it was getting harder and harder each day.  The phone call came from the counselor. Negative for the Breast Cancer gene. I was so relieved.

June 7, 2018… Surgery Day.  Is this still really happening? Is this all a bad dream? No.  This is my reality right now.  Breast cancer.  The 2 scariest words I had ever heard. I went back with the nurse, got prepped for surgery.  Went to the other side of the room, and waited for the surgeon.  The nurses were so positive and happy and amazing.  They gave me a teddy bear.  Pink with the breast cancer symbol on it and a necklace around its neck that said “hope”.  Another dose of reality.   Yes, this is really happening. Right Now. Surgery went well and I came home to recover.  I called my local doctor and told him everything went well with the surgery.  He asked if the grass was greener and the sky was bluer. I told him, yes it is.

July 6, 2018…Oncology appointment in Gunnison. She reiterated what my surgeon had said was the next step in this process.  Radiation. Will I lose my hair? What is radiation burn? Does the radiation hurt? One thousand more questions went through my mind.

July 18, 2018… I looked at the paperwork from TETWP.  I had received it from the Nurse Navigator at the hospital back in April but quickly filed it away.  I won’t need any help through this.  I can handle all of this.  I have never been so wrong.  I mailed the paperwork on July 23 2018.

July 19, 2018… Appointment in Montrose with San Juan Cancer Center. My first day of radiation was scheduled for August 15, 2018.  The day after we took our daughter to college. 21 days of radiation, 5 days a week. I don’t think I can handle this.  I am not this strong.

August 1, 2018… Lana called from TETWP. She told me to let her know my exact schedule for radiation and I could take the TETWP truck. What? Really? Why? Lana told me that Heidi would be calling me regarding the financial piece of my application with TETWP.  I cried that day.

A few days later… Heidi called me.  I cried a lot more that day. Really? Get my bills together and TETWP will pay them? TETWP offers house cleaning services. They offer services through the hospital like Rehab and Massage Therapy at no charge.  Why? I left work and walked over to see Kevin at his shop.  I walked in and I was a mess, in tears.  I asked if I could give him a hug.  This was truly not happening.  That day I knew I would be OK.  When I was better, I would 100% pay it forward to the most amazing organization, Ever.  TETWP gave me hope.

August 15, 2018… First day of radiation.  Drove the TETWP truck.  Amazing. Lana gave me gas cards to help with the cost of fuel.  2500 miles in 21 days for radiation treatment.  I drove the truck and also the Durango.  Words cannot express how thankful I was for the use of the vehicles and the gas cards. All of the financial assistance was truly remarkable.  It gave me the chance to focus on healing my body, and not be worried about paying thousands of dollars in medical bills.

September 14, 2018… Last day of radiation. Is it really done?  Yes, done.  I received my certificate from the San Juan Cancer Center, along with a beautiful blanket they give to their patients that amazing volunteers make for them. My husband and I celebrated that day.  It was done.  My husband and family were truly my rock and support, and I love them all dearly.

I just started physical therapy at the hospital.  Another service Heidi mentioned on the phone, a Pre-Hab appointment was available through TETWP.  I am also getting a massage later in the week, another service offered through TETWP.

It is impossible for me to put into words how amazing TETWP is.  The kind words, the encouragement, the services.  Most importantly, the people.  My family and I cannot thank you enough for everything you all have done over the last 5 months.  The organization and the donors and the volunteers are truly amazing, wonderful, incredible… no words can even describe.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I would like to recognize all the survivors, all the families and friends, the doctors, the nurses.  And most importantly, the TETWP crew in the Gunnison Valley.  YOU are a blessing and YOU gave me hope and showed me there was a light at the end of this tunnel. Thank you.

I am now ready to 100% pay it forward.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.

I am a survivor.  I am strong.

Staci Melby

9/27/2018