[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
A breast cancer diagnosis isn’t easy and significant support is often needed to care for your emotional, social, spiritual and practical needs. Being able to lean on those closest to you can make all the difference. We also often hear people say that sharing their story with others who might be going through a similar situation can be therapeutic as well. It is so important to not try to go through it alone. Today’s guest underwent treatment for breast cancer two decades ago, but to this day, is still eternally grateful to the people that supported her and her family through such a challenging time. Trish, welcome to the show!
[00:00:51] Trish MacDonald: Thank you, Adam.
[00:00:54] Adam Walker: I’m very excited to talk to you. Uh, I love your, your personality and enthusiasm. This is going to be great. So let’s start with your breast cancer story. Can you walk us through your breast cancer diagnosis and what was going on in your life at that time?
[00:01:09] Trish MacDonald: Okay.
Two decades ago. I can’t believe it 20 years, right. Um, oh my gosh. I was, uh, 50, I just turned 50 and, um, I did have, uh, a family member cousin that had passed early on with breast cancer. So there were very, uh, it was evident that, you know, we had to keep on top of it. So I, I would go for mammograms and they will.
Be suspicious, but nothing was concrete. They did biopsies, they did ultrasounds. They did, you know, and, and nothing. So, but what I can tell you about it is that, um, I felt like they were preparing me for what’s to come and, um, and that’s exactly what they. So when I did get the diagnosis, I was not surprised like most people, because I just felt that they really, I, I had a radiologist that was really preparing me, even though she wasn’t saying it, she would bring me in to see the films and she would talk about them.
And she would talk about these calcifications that. You know, Kansas, but they, they weren’t right there yet. So I appreciated that. So when I did get the diagnosis that, as I said, I wasn’t surprised, um, I’ve had, you know, immediately it gets just, you get into this fear, fear, the unknown. Then your whole family is involved.
And, you know, I have, I had a daughter, I have a daughter, she was 16, 17 at the time. Um, I had a husband that wasn’t, well, you know, all these things happen, but I think how it all came about was that there was a lot of stress going on in my life. And when that shows up, um, the cancer just came forth and there.
[00:03:25] Adam Walker: Wow. And, and, and I understand that it took two years to diagnose, so, so how did you deal with that? How, how was it going through that, you know, two year process and, and how did you call them your anxieties during that time?
[00:03:42] Trish MacDonald: I know I, as I said, I, I don’t know how I meet these people, but I do. And that radiologist actually was preparing me.
So I. I was so grateful that I did not get out of the blue. I get this horrible thing because I was getting prepared. Um, so I was grateful. I have to say, even though it did take two years, it was okay because, um, at the, maybe, you know, everything works for a reason. Um, timing is everything too. Um, I had, uh, my husband had.
Oh, well, let me just kind of go to meeting these doctors who were unbelievable. And, um, this one doctor was recommended and I went in to see him. Um, there’s a lot of options. I, I know this, probably this question’s coming up about that, but you do get a lot of auctions and there’s options. They can take a section of the cancer out.
They can, you can have radiation when they do that. They do, they can take a mastectomy, they can take a radical mastectomy. You can be reconstructed, um, by your own tissues, you can get, um, implants. And it’s like, oh, it’s a lot. It’s a lot. And, um, but when you’re directed to, to the right people and I really felt I was, so it was no question about it.
I felt, um, I’ve got the right surgeon, I’ve got the right plastic surgeon. Um, I was taking care of very well.
[00:05:26] Adam Walker: Hmm. Wow. That’s fantastic. And so, so you mentioned sort of the, all the different options. What decisions did you and your medical team make about your best course of treat?
[00:05:37] Trish MacDonald: So, as I said, they give you options and they really weren’t directing me.
Um, and they gave me a lot of, they said, go, go to the breast cancer support group, um, go for a second opinion. You know, they really cause there are a lot of options and, um, or I could do nothing, but you know, that was an option. So I’m. My husband, not rolling man, but pushing in, in a wheelchair, he had just had his leg amputated and the doctors looking at me, you know, I’m pushing a man, we’re going to listen.
We’re going to talk about diagnosis. And the doctor said, how was your stress level? And I said, um, It’s pretty, pretty high up there, you know? And, uh, so that kind of helped him help me make some decisions because, and again, back back to that radiologist that kept showing me these films, you know, even though they took, maybe it would take a section there might’ve been more.
So it was really clear to me that I had to do the mastectomy. And, but, but then 20, you know, two, two centuries ago, 20 years ago, um, they had an option and they do now as well. Uh, and it was called a tram flap where they take your tissues from your belly and they recreate a breast. So. That was an option.
And I went and I saw another doctor who, you know, her, his nurse was kind of pushing me towards more implants. And they, uh, the bunny thing in this breast world is that people don’t mind showing you their, their new ones. Yes. Oh yes. This new doctor that I went to see Dr. Joseph, um, his nurse said, you got to go up and see, you know, Mary, she works and ministration, she was in her early seventies, go up there and talk to Mary and she will show you what, you know, Dr.
Joseph can do. Sure enough, Mary, who is untidy. She goes, you’re here to see my breasts. I said, yes, they will magnificent. Okay. So it’s like a lot of auctions. For me, the right option was to do the tram flap. Um, take the tissues, build, you know, build a breast, be augmented on the other side. Um, and it was the right decision.
And so I had this fabulous Dr. Watanabi and he was the one that, um, he, when you’re in the hospital, he doesn’t let anybody tell you. He changes everything he comes in and it was over Thanksgiving actually. Um, so I’m laying in bed and he said, uh, he leaned over. He said, what do you think about your new belly button?
I said, do I have a new belly button? He said, yes, I gave you a new belly button. Cause it takes this tramp is a big, you know, they take a big chunk of your skin. They give you a tummy. Tuck is not bad actually. Um, so that’s what they did. They actually can reconstruct you. And, um, yeah, so it was, it was pretty amazing.
And, um, yeah.
[00:09:07] Adam Walker: Yeah, it sounds like, I mean, you had an amazing relationship with your medical team. I mean, how, how important was that for you?
[00:09:18] Trish MacDonald: And I really felt that this, this guy and his, it was, it was about me. He was not going to anybody. He’d take, you know, come in. The nurses don’t come in. He’s the one that does that. Um, it was so successful. My operation was so successful that he wanted, he asked me if I would be kind of a spokesperson for him.
Um, women that were trying to make these decisions and they needed to hear from someone that just had it done. And I said, I’m in, absolutely I will do it. So I would meet, you know, w I was still working full time. So it wasn’t like that was my new, you know, thing, but I definitely, I would talk to them on the phone.
I would meet them for coffee, for lunch, whatever. Um, we became friends and. But a lot of it is, even though it is. So, you know, you’ve got these masters, these professionals, these, you know, this guy that, you know, has most magnificent hands. If you’re not healthy, um, I guess mentally and spiritually. And if you’re not up for this, you have to be, you really have to be in.
A team of people, um, you have your friends and you have your family and you have, and, but they’re also worried about you too, you know? Um, but I had my church and, oh my gosh, that was, I went to the support group at the breast center and I just felt it was not for me actually, because we had started something similar of, for those that were dealing with illnesses that are.
And that was kind of my, I liked that better. That kind of went, you know, my style. So,
[00:11:14] Adam Walker: yeah. So you met, you mentioned your church. So then following up on that, I mean, who else was in your support group and what are some of the ways that they helped you through this journey?
[00:11:25] Trish MacDonald: 20 years ago? Very popular was a chicken casserole.
Chicken casseroles. I’m telling you no one makes casseroles anymore. Right. But it was a big deal. And they, from the church side, they would make sure we had, you know, when I was coming home from the surgery, um, they made sure we were eating, but it always seemed to be chicken casseroles. And when I get to speak in front of the church, once I said, I had no idea how many variations you could get with chicken casts.
But I know, but the other thing, this is one that just got me a little teary today thinking about it. I, you know, I worked in a, in a company that that just was, they were just fabulous and it was thanks. I was in the hospital with Thanksgiving. So Thanksgiving after that comes Christmas and my husband just had his leg amputated and I’m, can’t move my arms and I have a teenager.
And I looked at her and I said, do you mind if we don’t have a Christmas tree this year? And she says, oh yeah, fine. You know, great, no problem, no problem. You know, she and I go, oh God, now I have to do something. So I called my office, spoke to someone in the office and I said, would you just bring a tree to.
I’ll be, I’ll see you in an hour. Okay. Don’t worry about it. So we lived at the end of the street and it was dark and I’m looking out the door and I see lines of cars coming down my street. Not only did they have the tree? Okay. We, it must have been four or six people from my office there. Um, they went up into the attic, they came down with all our Christmas stuff.
The guys went out and decorated the trees and the bushes, and they just, they were like, say swarm in and they swarm out. It was just amazing. And so that’s people want to do these things for us, you know? Um, let them, and, you know, it’s so hard to ask people, but I was desperate and I had a kid that wasn’t talking to me at that point.
So, you know, she was, um, it was hard. It was hard, you know, for your family to look at what was going on. So my closest family, they were all out of town. They don’t live, you know, girl, you know, in a different.
[00:14:04] Adam Walker: Hm. And you mentioned, you know, asking for help. Why, why do you think it’s so important to ask for what you need while you’re going through an illness or some other major life event?
[00:14:15] Trish MacDonald: Because there there’s people there that want to do this for you, you know, don’t be afraid to ask, oh my gosh. I mean, so many, so many will just walk by and go. I don’t know what to say. You know, I just, you know, it’s with my husband and then you, and I don’t know, what can I do? What can I do that everybody was asking, what can I do?
So it almost gave me joy to see them helping me. I mean, cause there was so thankful and so that they could do it, you know, that they could actually come and we leave some of it, you know, whatever this was, but oh, that, that was the best Christmas we’ve had. Um, Yeah, it was great.
[00:14:59] Adam Walker: It’s amazing.
[00:14:59] Trish MacDonald: However, they didn’t come back and take the lights out of the tree.
[00:15:08] Adam Walker: I was going to ask about that actually.
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. It might’ve been a little longer take a little longer than usual, but uh, glad you made it. That’s good. Well, well, I mean, tourists, this is amazing. I really appreciate you sharing your story. What final piece of advice would you like to share with our listeners?
[00:15:29] Trish MacDonald: Well, I was thinking about who I was going through this journey with and, you know, I think sometimes your family are too close and it’s too painful for them.
I had. Best friend Joan. Okay. Joan and Joan would come to the meetings with me. Joan would come to, um, chemo with me. Um, Joan would come and look at everybody’s breasts. You know, that one to show us it was Joan was with me for all of that. And, um, so I think, you know, sometimes I want to say, just leave those people, your family members.
Tortured looking or you watching it go through, it rely on some of your friends because it’s lighter. Um, they want to do it and yeah, w yeah, not be like too much about the family. Cause they are they’re, they’re really struggling. You know, as I said, um, lessen their bourbon, grab, grab a friend, friends we’re always ready to get.
[00:16:39] Adam Walker: Yeah, that’s really, really good advice. And honestly, it’s advice that I don’t think we’ve heard on this show before is I really appreciate you sharing that. Um, well, Trish, I mean, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show. Really appreciate your perspective and, and thank you so much for joining us today, who
[00:16:55] Trish MacDonald: is my pleasure?
Really? Thank you.
[00:16:59] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.