There’s a new C-Word in Town and for once, it isn’t Cancer. What that in mind, if anyone needs a break from 🦠#COVID_19🦠 look no further! (I’m an employment law attorney, so I CERTAINLY need a break as well). Recently, I was asked to share my story with @ThriveGang on Instagram… which is what prompted this post. I started following this particular account because they frequently share inspiring stories about women thriving with MBC (metastatic breast cancer). I feel like I can relate to one of the site’s founders (@stephanie_seban) who is an EIGHT year MBC thriver. Obviously, she’s a little further along than I am, but I hope and believe every day that with God’s grace I can get there too. Today, I’m sharing (and expanding) on my @thrivegang story. If this gives someone else hope, then I’ll be happy🖤
My name is Holly Hollis Stars. I’m 36 years old and I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
About my Diagnosis: The spring of 2018 was shaping up to be one of the best ever. I was sailing through life and felt so happy about the plans and milestones ahead of me- but not just me, but for my fiancé, Mark. At 34 years old, I was engaged to a wonderful man, and we were planning our wedding that would take place in the fall. Even though Mark and I were getting married later than many of our peers, it was our first time and the process was still exciting and special to us. I was soaking up every single detail of the experience with my family and friends. Everything was falling into place and I felt confident that my life was on track. On May 8, 2018 all of that changed. During my annual OB appointment my doctor felt a lump in my left breast.
I wasn’t nervous at that point (see picture above) because I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, or any kind of cancer for that matter. But, two weeks later I found myself in a doctor’s office with my mom and Mark hearing the worst news imaginable. The doctor told me that I had Stage IV (metastatic) Triple Negative Breast Cancer and that statistically, the odds of survival were not in my favor. I immediately went into “lawyer mode” and pressed the doctor for more details. (She tried not to tell me and asked if I was ready to hear the answer to my questions….But I still wanted to know). At that time, I was told that if you take 100 women with what I have, 50% live less than a year. Time stood still in that moment. It felt like a bad dream. As we walked out of the office, Mark took me by the hand, looked into my eyes and said, “That is not OUR story and YOU are not a statistic. We will beat this. Together.” (He still tells me that today when I find myself getting scared or discouraged). After the initial stages of grief and denial, I realized that Mark was right. I was strong woman, and I knew I could beat this.
But, that initial confidence quickly faded as I tried to come to terms with my new normal. I had so many questions and felt lost without any clue of knowing where to begin. I wondered what chemo would be like and how treatment would make me feel. I worried about losing my hair and how all of this would affect our November wedding (that was already planned). I wanted desperately to have a plan of attack but had no idea what to do. It was during this time of uncertainty that I learned that it’s okay to ask questions, to ask for help, and not to have all of the answers all at once.
I began chemotherapy on May 31, 2018.
After that first treatment, Mark and I decided we didn’t want to wait until November to get married because we wanted to fight this together wholeheartedly as husband and wife. As a result, we threw together a wedding in a little over a week’s time. I remember looking at Mark and asking “So, how’s Monday for a wedding? He didn’t miss a beat and replied “I’m all in!” It wasn’t the huge soirée we originally planned. It was so much more.
As we stood there saying our vows (that we wrote the night before) in front of our immediate family and closest friends, it became the most perfect, most meaningful wedding we could have ever imagined. That day I didn’t feel like someone facing a terminal diagnosis. I just felt like a bride. I’m so grateful to have my husband stand beside me during this process. He has been my rock and impresses me every day with his continued strength, compassion, and MUCH needed humor.
The advice I would give other women facing their own diagnosis is that statistics are just numbers. There are always outliers and I’m living proof of that. I would also encourage other women to ask questions and to advocate for yourself. No one will fight for you…..like YOU. My last piece of advice is to embrace the “sisterhood” (aka, the club you didn’t EXACTLY sign up for). If you can find a support network it helps you not feel so alone.
What makes me a thriver: I didn’t give up when things seemed hopeless. I continued to workout during chemo and kept a positive attitude.
At some point during my treatment (which consisted of 8 months of IV chemo, a double mastectomy, 33 rounds of radiation, and 6 more months of Xeloda oral chemo) the doctors changed my “chemo contract” from “prolonging life” to “CURATIVE INTENTION”.
It still feels surreal that now there is a chance this cancer may not ever return……even having Stage IV TNBC. In a couple of months I will be celebrating my 2 year “cancerversary” this May and hope and pray that I will still be NEAD. (No evidence of active disease). I can’t say that I feel lucky that I drew the cancer card, but I do feel lucky that I’ve been able to experience the outpouring of love and compassion from so many people. Case in point:
Overall, I feel lucky that this diagnosis forced me to take a hard look at my FAITH and my priorities, and to trust in the plan God has for our lives. I’m lucky to still be here, to appreciate the little things, to live every single moment and to love the people in my life. My name is Holly. I’m an attorney, a wife, a fighter, a survivor….and a THRIVER.
⭐️Holly Hollis Stars ⭐️
If you made it to the last picture- thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means so much to me. While I’m practicing #SocialDistancing I’m hoping to catch up some blog posts that are overdue!