October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to sharing the stories of countless warriors and survivors. Breast cancer affects countless women around the world. While every journey is unique, some stories offer a glimmer of hope and a radiant light of positivity, laughter, and courage. Here are the journeys of two women, Dulcinea and Kathy, who faced breast cancer head-on and emerged stronger than before.
From Diagnosis to Resilience: Dulcinea’s Story
Dulcinea, a Chicago-based mother of four and leader of a company dedicated to housing for the physically and mentally challenged, faced a life-altering moment on Valentine’s Day 2020: a breast cancer diagnosis. Partnering in life and work with her architect husband, John Cronin, the news was a blow to their close-knit family.
Being diagnosed during a pandemic added an extra layer of stress. Amidst her health challenges, however, Dulcinea’s devout Catholic faith became an anchor. Every day, she sought solace and strength in her prayers, often leaning into a cherished picture of Jesus. This act of devotion led her to experience what she regarded as a divine intervention.
Mayo Clinic was the backdrop for her intense battle. The necessary treatments not only combated her cancer but also precipitated early menopause. Estrogen therapy, a common relief for menopausal symptoms, was off the table, as it could accelerate cancer growth. And while menopause brought its own set of physical challenges, its toll on Dulcinea’s mental health was profound. Her past struggles with PMS mood swings paled in comparison.
The ramifications of her mastectomy were both physical and emotional. Feeling a loss of youth and femininity and fear of diminished attractiveness to her husband, Dulcinea grappled with a burgeoning sense of despair. Yet, her resilience was remarkable. Only days after her surgery, she was back at work, leading meetings and discreetly managing her post-operative needs, including a surgical bag concealed beneath her attire.
Hope, Humor, and Healing
Dulcinea’s resilience shines through in her anecdotes. She even brings humor into her journey, concluding her story with a note about her marriage to John, saying, “We’re best friends—and also, my husband’s an ass man.”
Her journey underscores not just her resilience but also the immense support she received from her family, especially her husband and children, as well as the medical team at Mayo Clinic. Dulcinea’s narrative stands as a powerful testament to finding hope and humor, even amidst adversity.
Kathy’s Unexpected Best Year
Kathy Leonard’s breast cancer journey is both surprising and heartwarming. How can one describe the year they were diagnosed with breast cancer as the best of their life? Kathy’s story reveals just that.
It all began during a routine OB-GYN appointment where she discovered she hadn’t had a mammogram in three years. The subsequent tests led to a diagnosis that she never expected: ductal carcinoma in both breasts. With no history of breast cancer in her family and a track record of good health, the diagnosis was a shocking blow.
A Shift in Perspective
Yet, as the days went by, Kathy’s perspective began to shift. Initially predicting it to be the worst year of her life, she soon started believing it would be the best. She found solace in conversations with strangers and the discovery of the extensive breast cancer community.
A memorable event for Kathy was a spontaneous show-and-tell of nipple tattoos in a lavish hotel bathroom, a comedic encounter that taught her more about breast reconstruction and the shared experiences of breast cancer survivors.
When it came to her surgery, Kathy opted for a double mastectomy. Choosing to redefine her body on her own terms, she sought “cute and perkies” over the more common larger implants. Post-surgery, her surprise during a “consultation” with her doctor—which ended up being a photo session in just her thong—showcases her enduring sense of humor.
Kathy’s journey through double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and reconstruction wasn’t about being a warrior but about getting through each day. She approached her treatment like she approaches life: taking each day as it comes.
Love in Unexpected Places
Love also found its way back into Kathy’s life post-diagnosis. Five years into her journey, she met Rodolfo, a younger man with an old soul, and the two have been inseparable ever since. As Kathy reflects on her journey, she offers advice for others: stay open to the care and love of others. Through the challenges, it’s the friendships and support that shine the brightest. Today, Kathy stands as a beacon of hope, humor, and resilience, showing that life can be beautifully unpredictable, even in the face of adversity.
The journeys of these remarkable women serve as poignant reminders of the human spirit’s resilience. In the face of life-altering diagnoses, they have found strength not only within themselves but also within the community of survivors, caregivers, and loved ones. Their stories are not merely of survival but of transformation, laughter amidst tears, and the profound ability to find beauty in adversity. It’s a testament that hope, humor, and healing can prevail no matter how challenging the circumstances. As we celebrate their tenacity, let us also remember to cherish our own moments, hold our loved ones close, and always find a reason to smile.