Amazing Strength By Minnesota Mom Diagnosed With Breast Cancer At 31
October - the month of pink! Logos on social media are changed to reflect support, which is awesome, but not everyone is telling the stories. This month, we are. Four brave women from Minnesota and Iowa sat with me and told me about their unique breast cancer journey. Today, you get to hear from our youngest breast cancer survivor, Lindsay.
Meet Lindsay, Breast Cancer Survivor in Rochester, Minnesota
JESSICA - My name is Jessica Williams with Townsquare Media. This month, we are talking with breast cancer survivors - it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thanks to Mosaic Chrysler, they are helping spread the stories of people right here in our area who have had that fight.
I have a special guest with me today. Go ahead and introduce yourself.
LINDSAY: I'm Lindsay Schilling and I am 41 right now. I was 31 when I was diagnosed and I had triple positive breast cancer. So that means it was estrogen, progestin, and then protein, it was just being fed by all the things.
JESSICA: Before we talk about your treatment and what you had to go through when you heard the word breast cancer, tell me about something that brings you joy right now. When you get to do it, you just smile.
LINDSAY: Well, we just ended the warm season here, but I like to kayak a lot. So I spend a lot of time on the river.
But I like a lot of things, I have a lot of hobbies. I like art, and music. I just got done working at the Renaissance Festival for the season. So I do a lot of things that are fun.
JESSICA - We're going to talk about breast cancer. Go ahead and explain what it was like the day that you found out you had breast cancer. Did you have any symptoms?
LINDSAY: So actually my mom had been diagnosed, I think like 7 years before me at age at age 48, which really was a shock because it wasn't something that was in our family. Really healthy lady.
So that made me more self-aware, so I had kind of gotten into the habit of doing my self exams. And I had a lump in my left breast that I had noticed just kind of changing and I wanted to go in and get it checked out.
When I initially brought it to my doctor's attention, it was just dismissed. (Things said like) "Ohh it's just thicker tissue there", "No big deal", but that was the end of it. There was no further anything, just to be sure.
And I wasn't convinced. I just knew that that wasn't right.
Life was really busy then. A lot of things going on at that time, getting ready to move. Kids were younger. So I kind of kept an eye on it (the lump), but also just kind of let it ride for a while.
And then I went back later on that year, like November-ish and was like
"this is not nothing". You know, it just doesn't seem right. It's not going away. It's different. It's harder. It's changing.
So I really pressed for them to reexamine and you know, at that point, I think they finally
decided like, "OK, well, we'll do a biopsy". Low and behold, I had I think 4 tumors in the left breast, By the time they actually diagnosed me it was literally like a millimeter from my muscle wall.
My mom and my boyfriend at the time both went with me to get my results, and I didn't
feel very surprised by it.
Like, I kind of think I already knew and my mom was like, "I'm sure it's nothing but you know I wanna be here with you. We'll find out together."
She was just shocked.
So I think it was more emotional for my support people at the time then it even was for me, because I think I already knew in the back of my mind that this is probably what it was. And it takes a while to process that as well.
JESSICA - You you get your diagnosis, what were your emotions at that moment?
LINDSAY - For me, I was just like, "OK, this is what it is." And then you know, it takes a little bit of time to process.
And the hardest thing is actually having to tell other people
JESSICA - You said you had kids. How old were they when you were diagnosed?
LINDSAY - 7 and 12.
JESSICA - I can't even imagine telling my kids at that age, or even having them being able to understand what that means.
LINDSAY - Yeah, that.
And you know, when you're their person, because I was basically a single mom.
I had a partner at the time that lived with us, but it's hard for them to see you that way.
It's hard for them to see you sick and You don't have the energy to give them what they need.
JESSICA - What was your life like at the moment of your diagnosis? We know you had 2 kids. Were you working?
LINDSAY - I was working full time with special needs adults. My kids were
younger, 7 and 12 I think that's still elementary for both of them.
My parents are both about an hour and 15 minutes away in each direction, so no immediate
family right here, but a lot of really good friends and a lot of good people that just reached out to help. People would just swing by and drop off a meal.
You know, those were like the most helpful things to just not have to worry about dinner that night.
I can't remember how many weeks into treatment I did before I had to stop working because I was just too tired. I wasn't able to do my job to the best of my ability.
JESSICA - Did you have chemo or radiation? What was your treatment like?
LINDSAY - Yeah, I did chemo. I didn't have to do any radiation.
I started chemotherapy in February of 2014. So February, March, April. - Three solid months of chemo and then I had a double mastectomy that summer and then full reconstruction done that following March. I've had a total of three breast surgeries.
That double mastectomy, there's a lot of healing that goes on after that. You really have to give yourself grace and you have to give yourself time and just kind of accept that you're not going to be able to do some of those things. Being able to ask others for help and accept help is really a big part of that, because that's also, I think, part of the healing process for your support people too.
They want to be able to help you and they want to be able to do things so that they
can feel like they're helping and whether it's, like I said, dropping off a meal or swinging
by quick and running the vacuum, whatever little thing it is, you can't do it.
So you have to be able to accept that from other people to kind of help you
through that process.
JESSICA - What's your prognosis now?
LINDSAY - I have my 10 years of being in remission this July, so I mean, life's been good. I've been completely healthy. I haven't had any scares and really haven't had to do anything out of the ordinary as far as medical visits. I just do my normal exams like anybody else at this point.
And I guess that's one perk. Once you have silicone implants you have a pretty minimal, screening moving forward. It's really just about monitoring yourself and being aware and if
anything changes you've got to be on that right away.
JESSICA - For someone who is afraid to just have that initial visit, maybe they found something and they're too scared to make the phone call, they're too scared to do a
mammogram, what would you tell that person?
LINDSAY - I really think they need to rewrite the book on mammograms.
I think they need to start them a lot sooner. I mean, so many people are being diagnosed at earlier ages that I feel like we should start doing them sooner.
Because my mother has had cancer, I think they start you 10 years before that. Well, for me, that still wouldn't have been soon enough. I have a daughter and because I was 31, I think for her now it is 21.
I would say the mammogram process itself is not that bad. I think it's one of those things that you build up in your mind to be worse than what it actually is.
For some people, maybe it's the fear of the results or maybe it's the fear
of what's going to happen next. If I do this then there's going to be a next step. But I guess I would have to tell myself that the longer you wait, the worse it can be.
And because early detection is what's really gonna give you the best outcome, the sooner you act on things, the sooner you can rule it out too, and get that off your mind.
We're all busy. I mean, I work 40 hours a week. I'm in college right now working
on my teacher's license. I've got a house to run and we all could come up with reasons all day long to why we don't have time.
But your body has got to come first, you know, because if there is something going on, cancer doesn't care if you're busy.
Cancer doesn't care if you've got stuff to do.
Cancer doesn't care that you got little kids to raise.
It's not gonna wait for you.
JESSICA - True.
So for a woman out there or a guy, because there are men who are diagnosed with breast cancer, they just heard the words "breast cancer" for the first time, what would you tell them?
LINDSAY - First of all, just take a deep breath and tell yourself you're going to get through it because we all can do hard things. Leaning on the people around you for support is huge. Take in their energy and let them help you and let them support you and just let them be
there for you. For a lot of people, that's the hardest thing. It's just asking for help and it's OK because we all need that sometimes.
I guess I would also say that don't go home and Google "breast cancer". Don't look at images, for the love of all things. Do NOT look at images. Don't do that to yourself.
Don't overwhelm yourself with all of that, because so much of what you're going to read and see is not only mentally scarring in its own way, but so much of that is probably going to have nothing to do with you.
It's so individual, just don't do that to yourself. Just take one day at a
time. Let things unravel as they should. Just get through each day and try and
take it slow. Try not to look at it as like all the things all at once because you don't know
everything yet. You just got to kind of take it as it comes and just still do the things that
make you happy. Don't eliminate those things from your world because you think that everything has to revolve around the fact that you're going through this because you still have to have your normalcy. We still have to have the things that bring joy.
And surround yourself with the people who you know are there to help you. That's healing too.
JESSICA - Your body is going through a lot. Just to have that positive
aspect, and fill you up with all the happiness, whether it's people's words or the cards that they might send or just the fact that they are there to listen.
Did you ever have anyone just sit with you when you had chemo?
LINDSAY - Yeah, my mom is totally my rock. She's in La Crosse and she would drive up every Wednesday. She'd come pick me up. She'd bring me home. Ask what I needed while she was here. And not everybody has that person and I know that, but just allow yourself to lean on them.
JESSICA - Anything else that you would want to share?
LINDSAY - I guess I was kind of in a unique situation because I was young, right, pretty much
single. I mean, I was dating somebody, but it wasn't my person, you know?
A lot of the women that I was in a group with, we had like a young survivors group and we'd get together and do coffee, which I think that's really important because you feel like as a younger person sometimes that there's not a lot of other people like you out there. There was!
And a lot of us were like, you know, what's dating gonna be like now that everything's different
in my body? We would just throw all those things out there and talk each other through it. And just remember that it's not that big of a deal, it really isn't, especially once you're done. You're not going through it anymore. Just remind yourself that you can move forward and life goes on.
JESSICA - I thank you so much for chatting with me because you telling your story
might just make it a little bit easier for somebody else to take
those steps to take care of themselves. I appreciate you.
Townsquare Media cares about our community. We are sharing the stories of breast cancer survivors all month and you can find those and other helpful resources on our station app all powered by Mosaic Chrysler in Zumbrota, Beyond sales, it's service.