As a mother of two young boys and devoted wife, Tracey Hein said breast cancer was the furthest thing from her mind. No family history coupled with a healthy lifestyle meant Hein never expected to be hit with the news that she was afflicted with the disease.
"I had a clear mammogram in June of 2017. I visited the gynecologist in August because I was having sweats and noticed breast hardening and tenderness. The doctor recommended I get another mammogram to ease my mind. After further testing, I was told I was the 1 in 8 who will be diagnosed with breast cancer."
Tracey went in for a double mastectomy that September, and upon waking, was told the cancer had spread to multiple lymph nodes and the tumor was large and aggressively spreading, placing her at stage 3.
The decision to undergo different treatments is a personal choice. "For me, it was a double mastectomy with expanders, which would include reconstruction after treatment."
Along with this agonizing process, was the addition of chemotherapy. By Tracey's second treatment, she began to lose her hair.
"Through 'Don’t Be a Chump, Check for a Lump,' I had purchased a wig. Even with my preparation for ‘shave day,’ this was the first time I cried. Now everyone could tell I was undergoing treatment...mainly my children."
Tracey's two boys, Gabriel (then in the second grade) and Ethan (then in kindergarten), were too young to truly understand what was going on. Tracey is sad about missing so much of that year with them but is equally grateful for the support of her community.
"Gabriel obsessively studied germs and diseases; I think this was his way of coping. I found several books written for children on losing hair and cancer. Neither of my boys liked my wig, so I found a plethora of hats on Amazon, and friends made me crocheted caps. My parents dropped everything and drove their RV from Florida to park in our backyard for months. My husband, Denis, was allowed to work from home thanks to his employer. My friends were my therapy, and I made so many new friends who had gone through breast cancer treatment."
Currently, Tracey is cancer-free, but notes that aftercare is crucial.
"I take medication daily, monthly, I get a shot in the stomach, and I have regular scans and bloodwork. You often hear that someone is battling cancer or lost their cancer battle. I understand the good intention behind the phrase, but it isn’t necessarily true. My treatment worked for me, but I had no control over it working. This was a battle over my life, of which I had no control of the outcome."
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Skin changes, such as swelling, redness or other visible differences in one or both breasts
- An increase in size or change in the shape of the breast(s)
- Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- General pain in/on any part of the breast
- Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast
Ways to get involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
- Participate in an upcoming event
- Create a fundraiser in your area
- Contact an affiliate for local projects
- Purchase official Susan G. Komen merchandise to help end breast cancer