My name is Mary Groves. I am wife to Mark and mother to Frances (7) and Lucy (4). I grew up in a large family and am 1 of 7 children. I am the aunt to 22 nieces and nephews. I have spent my life playing, coaching and spectating sports with my family. This year I turned 40 and a week later my life was changed when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
In July of 2016 I found a lump in my breast and on the 25th I was scheduled for a mammogram with an ultra sound. I was very familiar with the process because my sister had breast cancer 3 years prior. As the technician was doing the ultra sound she confirmed my lump was not a cyst so I knew immediately I had a tumor in my breast then they found another tumor in my lymph node. The biopsies were taken and the next few days waiting for results were awful. I knew I had breast cancer but was still hoping for benign diagnosis. The thoughts that go through your mind during that time are overwhelming. Once I met with my oncologist, Dr. Kahn, he walked me through the process and I was put at ease.
I was diagnosed with HER 2+ and it was estrogen driven. I was familiar with this cancer because I was the 5th granddaughter to be diagnosed with it on my mother’s side of the family and it was the same diagnosis as my sister, Katie Whipple, in the same quad of the breast and it had spread to one lymph node just like it had with her. I was relieved to be diagnosed with this cancer because I knew my family responded well to the treatments. The next part of my journey was to tell my daughters that I have cancer.
We explained to Lucy that I would be sick sometimes and I would lose my hair. The thought of no hair on my head made her laugh hysterically and then she continued to pray for my “Boob” every night at bedtime. Frances, on the other hand, had some good questions for me. She had just seen my sister go through this and my cousin pass away from it. After I told her I was going to be sick and lose my hair she asked me three questions, “Do you have cancer?” “Are you going to die?” and “Does this mean I will have cancer when I grow up?” I told her that I do have cancer, she then interrupted me with, “Tell me exactly what the doctor said!” I told her my doctor said as long as I do what he says I will get better, and that we will live healthy lives to prevent you from getting cancer. I told her she could grow up to be a scientist or doctor and discover a cure for cancer. Her next question was, “How many degrees do I need to become a scientist?”
I was very lucky to have a wonderful support system during chemotherapy. My husband did not miss one single appointment and was very positive throughout this process. My family helped with our kids and gave them lots of love when I was too sick to hold them. For the first time in my adult life I was accepting help from others. Families from St. Thomas More Parish brought me meals for three months. It was a big relief to not have to plan meals for the family when mom and dad were so exhausted. We received “The Healing Chair” which allowed me to heal more comfortably after my double mastectomy. I am so thankful for the supportive communities that Kansas City has to offer for woman with breast cancer. I am thankful for the medical staff at the University of Kansas for all of their care and help to overcome my cancer.
I think God may have given me breast cancer to get me more involved with some of these communities/charities that supported me while I was sick. Maybe I am destined to be an advocate for women with dense breast tissue and encourage them to demand Ultrasounds or MRI’s on their breasts since mammograms can have difficulty identifying tumors with dense breast tissue. My 3-D mammogram from 8 months prior to my diagnosis did not show the tumor in my breast that had been growing in me over the past few years. I do know that I will encourage woman to get up everyday and try to stay active during chemo like my sister did for me.