My name is Monica Fickenscher. My world was rocked on July 15, 2014 when I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple positive breast cancer at the age 38. I was given a script for a mammogram in March and waited to have it done until July because I was “too busy”! Why a mammogram at 38 you ask? My doctor, Dr. Kuroki from Riddle Hospital believes in early detection and because if her, my life was saved.
It was a hot day in July and my sister broke her ankle. She ashes me to take her to Bryn Mawr for an X-ray. When we got there I decided to get a mammogram because my script was sitting in my glove compartment. My sister agreed and said it’s walk on Wednesday so you don’t need an appointment for a mammogram. I had it done and was so proud of myself and at the fact that it didn’t hurt! I was bragging to all my friends about how easy it was. That’s the only thing that was easy. I never dreamed that my life was going to change-FOREVER.
I sat at my swim club the next day soaking in the sun when I got a call back from Bryn Mawr that they wanted me to come in for a repeat mammogram that would be 3D. I was scheduled for the next day. My husband wanted to come and I said no. I told him 90% of females get a call back and it isn’t anything. Off I went, the next day with not a fear in the world think that I was one of the 90% people that “it was nothing.” As I sat waiting for the results of my mammogram, I was whisked away for an ultrasound where the tech zoomed in eagerly at many spots of my breasts. I knew at that moment that something was wrong. Next, the doctor came in with the dreaded words- we found a 1.25 solid mass on your left breast. “Do I have cancer I asked with tears flowing down my checks while shaking like a leaf.” His reply was the same over and over. You are young, you are strong, you can beat this. His didn’t confirm or deny that I had cancer. He didn’t have to. I knew I did. The next step would be a needle biopsy and in 24 hours I would have answers.
Once my mind could think I needed to figure out how to tell my loving husband Chris and my two children Maggie age 7 and Christian age 10. I went home and just cried in disbelief. I didn’t want my kids to see me like this so I had to leave and compose myself. My poor husband was left to answer questions because my children knew and could feel that something was wrong.
We left the next week for vacation after leaning I had a very small tumor that was highly aggressive and a triple positive breast cancer diagnosis. This vacation gave us time to process what was happening in the moment, what we were about to face as a family and time to love my family.
When I returned from vacation I was in a fight or flight mode and visited every doctor, had every test and visited every hospital. I learned about cancer, rumors and treatment plans. I chose the oncologist and surgeons that would treat me. I chose Penn.
I scheduled my first lumpectomy. This was going to be a breeze. They would get that small tumor out and I would be golden. Cured. Healed. Not. Those margins came back unclear and so did my second lumpectomy. It was time to shift. My cancer was too aggressive and was growing faster that we could get it out. I needed to start chemotherapy asap. 3 days later I had my first chemotherapy and Herceptin. The hair started to fall out, I was so sick and couldn’t be a mom but I fought. I fought hard- for 6 months. Chemotherapy was the hardest thing I have ever done. I finished chemotherapy on 1/2/15. I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction on 2/13/15. I was cleared. All the cancer was out!
That was when I met the HEADstrong Foundation. The minute I met them they made me feel powerful, resilient and normal. I wasn’t a person of cancer- I was a real person fighting this horrible poison. I have fought with a smile each and every day and her I stand. My journey will be completed in August.
A special thanks to the Headstrong foundation for helping me to believe in myself!