On September 16, 2004, Menomonee Falls designer Marcia Eliason, heard the four words no woman wants to hear-- “You have breast cancer”. According to the American Cancer Society, these four words will be said to over 290,000 women in 2011 alone. However, every woman has her own story about when she heard those words and the journey after. On a sunny fall Tuesday morning, Marcia and I sat down with a cup of coffee while she shared her story.
At the age of 43, a woman who religiously scheduled her mammograms, and with no family history was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer. This particular type of breast cancer makes up about 20% of all breast cancers. Lobular cancer does not form a lump like most common cases making it difficult to spot, even in a mammogram. Although Marcia’s cancer wasn’t found in her mammogram screening, Marcia strongly encourages women to continue mammograms. She encourages women to, “Know your body, and if something isn’t right check it out.” While continually fighting to find out what was going on with her body, Marcia saved her own life.
After diagnosis, Marcia went through the process of finding the best doctor for herself. “You have to do what you feel comfortable with, it is your decision.” But even when the treatment plan was in place, Marcia went home and couldn’t overcome the overwhelming feeling of everything that had happened. She then decided to call ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis) where she gained a mentor to help her through the entire process. She was paired with a woman who had the same diagnosis and treatment plan to help her through the decision process and anything else she needed.
In addition to ABCD, Marcia found herself surrounded by loving family and friends helping her through the bad days, and even the very bad days. Marcia said, “I learned that I needed to take a step back, listen to my body and open the door to help.” Although accepting help was one of the most difficult things, she realized it was one of the most important steps to her recovery. Throughout her process, Marcia also kept a journal to help her sort through her feelings and to help her through the tough times. She tried not to dwell on what was going on, she learned it was important to keep a positive attitude.
As I sit across the booth from Marcia almost exactly 7 years to the day of her diagnosis, Marcia is cancer free. She had undergone chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, a mastectomy and reconstruction, and fought through it all with her chin up. I asked Marcia what she would say to a newly diagnosed woman and she said “Take it day by day. You can’t look at the big picture or else it will feel like too big of a feat. Let people help you, and use your resources.”
Currently, Marcia gives back to her community in many ways including being a mentor at ABCD. Although I only heard some of her story, I knew I would never understand those days of physical and emotional pain, hair loss, or even major changes to a body all at once. But it sure didn’t take too much time for me her to hear the message within her story, “Fight for yourself. You are a lot stronger than you think.”
~Lauren, Pewaukee Designer