December 18, 2015, two days after her 34th birthday Christine Summers received the news that would shake her world... her recent self detected breast lump was biopsied and came back as cancerous. As young, strong and physically fit as Christine was, cancer did not care...it was there to make itself known and was going to try its hardest to cause disruption, sickness and pain. However, cancer picked the WRONG woman. Christine had too much good planned into her life and cancer was not going to take any of that away without a strong fight! A wife, mom of three, softball coach and business owner knew that life wasn't just going to stop because she had cancer, she had to put on a strong and brave battle for her future.
Within 18 months of her breast cancer diagnosis, Christine endured a double mastectomy, NINE different surgeries, chemotherapy, numerous medications and the loss of her long blonde beautiful hair! Some days were rough and others were ok. Being the select softball coach for her twin daughter's team, Christine managed to never miss one practice or game because of her illness... what a determined woman to teach young ladies what a true fighting spirit really looks like both on and off the field!
What helped Christine through it all was her positive attitude with a determination to kick cancer out, an amazing support team and healthy dietary changes! A large part of her support team was Christine's loving husband, Cody. Cody was there every step of the way with always a shoulder to cry on, a positive reminder to keep fighting and a stable foundation during the unstable times. He always knew a sure way to help Christine forget about her pain for just a little bit, with a movie and bucket of popcorn. Knowing that she had three young children who needed their mom to be there at every sporting event, every school function and every new milestone throughout their lives fueled her fire to fight even harder!
After a fierce battle with breast cancer, Christine is now cancer free and a proud survivor! Although, still at high risk for recurrence, Christine knows that cancer cannot keep her down! With the help of daily treatments and monthly doctor's visits for the next nine years, please join me in prayer and good vibes to Christine as the journey of survival continues.
I am honored to know Christine and her story! Her impact on the community she is involved with is one of humbled love and a strong & determined leadership. Thank you Christine for allowing me to share your amazing and inspiring story, to raise awareness for breast cancer and help encourage those fighting that in the word cancer is the word CAN, they CAN do it too!
Christine Summers Q&A Session
Christine Summers Question & Answer Session
Q: When were you diagnosed and at what age?
Two days after my 34th birthday.
Q: What stage were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma (Breast Cancer) – Stage 1A, Estrogen Positive with zero positive lymph nodes. Because of my age, BRCA status and the type of tumor characteristics, I was and still am high risk for breast cancer reoccurrence.
Q: How was the cancer initially detected?
I self-detected a small mass in my breast. I waited a couple days and then decided I needed to go in to have it checked out. First off I went to my OBGYN who sent me to get a mammogram, which ended up not showing anything. Before letting me leave, the radiologist at the office decided to do an ultrasound since they could feel the small mass. After the ultrasound he determined it was most likely benign, especially with my age, however, he sent me to a surgeon to double check. I then met with the surgeon who, again, thought it was benign but gave me the option for biopsy which I agreed to and wanted. Three days later I received the call that the mass was officially diagnosed as cancerous.
Q: Is there family history of cancer?
Yes. I had no idea how much cancer was in my family until after my diagnosis and I began researching. Not only do we have a large history of cancer but we also have quite a few close relatives who carry the BRCA II gene. However, I was negative for BRCA II but did have an unknown strand of BRCA I.
Q: How did you feel when you first received the news? What was that day like?
Of everything I have been through since diagnosis, the initial day was probably the toughest. The day was spent mostly at the doctor’s office and in the car. It was full of questions, answers, silence, hand holding, hugs, tears and lots of tissues. I received the news early in the morning and was in shock as soon as I saw the unknown number on my phone. My husband Cody was an amazing supporter that day in more ways than one. I just needed him to let me cry and that’s exactly what happened. I’ve never cried so much in my life, and looking back I just remember tears from the moment I got that phone call until I finally fell asleep that night. The word CANCER had put fear in me immediately.
Q: With young children and a husband, how was it having to tell them about your diagnosis?
My husband got the job of telling our children and our family. He was amazing that day letting everyone know as at the time I could not even speak a full sentence. It was actually about a full week before I could speak on the phone with my mother without myself or her breaking down. Our children took the news well and were extremely positive and supportive. Our twin daughters were 11 at the time and our son was 6, who’s first response (in a most serious way) to me being sick was asking if I was contagious and backing away (which at the time brought a slight laugh out of me). All three children after that, along with my husband, were amazing through everything and helped me stay very positive and upbeat throughout my surgeries and treatments. I still have the hanging cancer ribbons my daughter made for me the night before my double mastectomy which have since hung from my car’s rearview mirror.
Q: Did you have a support network? How did you find comfort and strength during that time?
Yes. My husband, children, and our families were my biggest strength. After everything settled down and I began processing what was going on my strong woman side kicked in, and at that point I just decided I was going to do whatever I needed to get through and kick cancer out the door. I had too much to do, and life was not slowing down whether I had cancer or not.
Q: What was your treatment process?
I chose to have a double mastectomy which was then followed by chemotherapy treatments. After chemotherapy I was put on an estrogen blocker that I will have to continue to take for nine more years.
Q: What were your biggest obstacles during your treatment process? How did you overcome them?
I felt like I got through the treatment process fairly well. Prior to starting treatment I detoxed my body and ate super clean for two months. Once I realized this was something I needed to do to help keep cancer away it was an easy transition.
As far as chemotherapy went they have so many drugs now to help with nausea that I never once vomited like you see on TV. I definitely felt strange some days and did lose my hair but overall got through this part pretty well.
I think the biggest obstacle I went through was learning to accept the changes of my body through the different surgeries and the scars left on me. Thankfully I had an amazing plastic surgeon, Dr. Emily McLaughlin at West Magnolia Plastic Surgery. She was an amazing doctor and person and helped me get through over a year of surgeries and got me somewhat back to normal.
Q: As an entrepreneur, how did you manage to keep your business going during this time?
Thankfully I am able to do the vast majority of my work out of my home, so I was able to keep things going like normal each week. There were days that I would not get as much done as normal but would make that up the days I was feeling well.
Q: With your involvement with the softball community, how did your diagnosis change your involvement?
Softball definitely kept me going, and I did not allow cancer to slow me down at all. Being a coach for my daughters’ select team and working with select players wanting to go to college, it was important for me to continue my commitment to the team, girls and families I worked with. I made sure that my treatments were on Mondays so that I would be ready to step on the field and coach by Saturday. I didn’t miss any tournaments that spring and was very thankful for the group of girls and parents I had that season and the support they gave to me along with the other coaches in the community. I still remember the first tournament that season was the weekend my hair was supposed to start falling out so I buzzed it off that Friday night and my husband put our team’s name on the back of my head along with the cancer symbol. We took 2nd place that weekend and I will never forget it.
Q: Where did you find your “happiness” during this time?
Just being with my family at home or watching them play sports/doing activities they liked to do made me happy. Going on dates with my husband and to the movies with a bucket of popcorn also made me very happy.
Q: Did you have health insurance in place that helped with medical bills?
Thankfully I did.
Q: Were there any fundraisers or benefits thrown in your honor to help raise funds and/or awareness?
We chose not to do a fundraiser or benefit. I did, however, receive a lot of well wishes and gift cards from friends and the softball community which was extremely sweet of them.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell women about your journey?
I guess the biggest thing I would say to people that either do or do not know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, or any other cancer/disease for that matter, is that the affect it has on us and our family is not over when chemotherapy is done or when our hair grows back. For me, I was in a doctor’s office at least weekly and usually 2-3 times each week. I ended up having nine surgeries, including a double mastectomy and hysterectomy and three more biopsies within eighteen months of my diagnosis. I continue to have almost weekly visits to the doctor and treatments for things that are not curable now and cause daily pain. However, if someone was to look at me they would not see any of that or think anything is wrong with me. If they saw my curly hair they would assume it has always been curly, although it was straight as could be prior to it all falling out. When the anniversary of my diagnosis date, my initial surgery date and the day I found out I needed chemo come close, I will remember those days vividly along with the emotions that I had those days. Every time a show comes on TV with a cancer victim it makes me rethink of everything I went through and grateful that I am still here and cancer free. Every time I feel something on my body that shouldn’t be there I will freak out, call my doctor and more than likely have to have it biopsied.
Cancer is a disease that people can become free of, however, emotionally and physically it’s something that can affect them for life. With that said, cancer does not have to dictate how your life is lived and does not have to run it. Just remember that if you encounter someone having a bad day that they may be battling something more than just not having their coffee that morning.
Q: Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share?
Prove cancer wrong and stay strong! Stay positive, live your life, and educate yourself on whatever type of cancer you or someone you love has. Remember, inside the word cancer is CAN – you can get through this. Surround yourself with loved ones and a great team of doctors who you trust. Cancer sucks and it’s okay to have days of darkness, however, don’t let cancer run your life and make you miss the wonderful things life can bring. Get up every day even if it’s a struggle and make cancer regret that it picked you or your loved one to try to take down.
To share your journey and give encouragement to others with photographs and a published blog post, please email Mandy at email@example.com