Tenured Breast Cancer Student- Lianne Grootings
Name: Lianne Grootings
Age at Enrollment: 32 years old
Major: First time diagnosis stage 2c breast cancer. Second time diagnosis, stage 4 breast cancer in the bones and liver.
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Lump in my breast while breastfeeding my almost one year old. Lots of hair loss and fatigue.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? Lump in my breast.
Courses completed: First Dx: Chemo, mastectomy, radiation, breast reconstruction diep lap, second reconstruction with nipple reconstruction, hormone therapy. Second dx: Took out ovaries and daily medicine to keep the cancer stable. Nipple tattoos (in different phases) and scans every three months.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? In general I approach everything very peacefully- I take the example of the Buddhists. I really take my time in preparing myself emotionally. For example, with chemo, I focus on myself for the first week after chemo, just my family and I, peacefully. Week two there would be space for being social again! And I had the luck that we could shift the attention towards traveling after each chemo and enjoy family moments. A positive memory of chemo!
The hardest moments are saying goodbye to a body part. Focus on that part of your body, be thankful for what it gave you, accept it, be grateful and step by step I would be ready for my operation (mastectomy, reconstruction, ovaries out).
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? What advice would you tell them to ignore? There is no good or bad in this situation. I did my best not to panic. Wait until more tests are done, with more results, clear steps and treatments for you to take. That will give you more peace. After a few months you will be closer to acceptance and later on will also be able to see the beauty in life again. Of course, this is easier said than done. I am aware that cancer is a mindf*ck. You have to be really strong to not get into depression. Avoid searching online where everything is negative and every body is different anyways! I did it once and cried the entire evening!
How did your family and friends respond? It’s extremely difficult to have such a bad news talk with your family, especially parents. I focused on the good news first, then the bad. I asked them to sit down with some tea. I passed on the following message: “I can be treated, I will become better again, but they found a lump in my breast..” With me staying strong during that message, our parents would be able to stay “kind of” strong as well. Of course they cried, but the situation could have been more traumatic.
With friends I passed the same message. It’s hard to deal with your environment, there was no time to get prepared and no study that teaches you how to handle that. There is no good or bad, you have to deal with all people reacting in their own way, then yourself, whether you were happy with that or not, you have to deal with that. I always remember people care about me and everything is done with a good heart.
Are there any bad platitudes/bad recommendations that you’ve heard from other people regarding your diagnosis? People who are close to me never gave bad advice. I guess I am lucky with so many intelligent people around me! Only online would people approach me- advising me to choose only conventional treatments or only do this and that. Apparently my cancer can be over next weekend! LOL.
When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, what do you do? I let it be. I feel it is healthy to also feel those emotions. Luckily only 15% of the time... the other 85% of the time I am able to see the bright side. If I want to cry, I cry very loud, it feels as if I am cleansing myself. I share my anxiety with my husband- the only thing he can do is hug me- I will eventually fall asleep and it’s over. Interesting enough, I have so much distraction during the day to be sad so if the sadness happens, it comes in the evenings.
What do you wish more people knew/understood about the type(s) of cancer you were diagnosed with? I try to create awareness for my stage 4 diagnosis that it’s chronic. I am not going anywhere the coming years, that’s what I hope and feel... And for me to stay here even longer, I need people to donate for more research to find a cure. I wish people understood that currently there is no cure. I believe in miracles, and I always say out loud for the universe to hear it; There will be a cure for me. I will celebrate my 50th birthday!
Have you created any meaning out of this experience? If so, what was it/how did you do it? I am focusing on my Sparkleupyourmind instragram account with all the beauty that comes with it! I started my Instagram during my first diagnosis but mainly for my family and friends to see. Now, with my second diagnosis (which I share with the Xmas tree dec’17 post), I feel this is meant to be. I enjoy the messages I receive, making people feel comfortable in their difficult situation and inspire others, healthy or not. Live life to the max was always my sentence, I didn’t need cancer for that. But I am enjoying my life now even more, everything I do now, work-wise, I do this for my children to teach them how to be positive. But I am confident it is in their genes as well, like in mine!
How did/do you find joy during this experience? The joy I get from watching my children is priceless. I have been lucky to have these miracle boys, right on time. Because of them I survive and I have so many beautiful moments with them. It’s heartbreaking for me that other patients cancer took away the dream of children. And even though I would have loved a third one, I took my time to accept this and focus on the beauties that wake me up each morning.
Since your diagnosis, what new belief, habit or behavior has most improved your quality of life? To not have stress anymore and being less nervous for what I, before, thought could be a difficult (work) situation. There is nothing scarier than receiving a diagnosis, going into chemo or operation. Now, nothing else in life (except something happening to my loved ones) can scare me anymore. That gives me so much peace of mind!
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it? I realized I am an extremely “Happy (easter) Egg” that’s what we say in the Netherlands. I have always been an energetic person, that’s what my environment says about me. But now I found out that positivity is in my genes (recent research showed, just like depression, obviously positivity is in the genes as well). And I am super happy and satisfied about it, that whatever happens, I really try (and often it’s hell of a job to push my mind into that) to see the bright side and be grateful what I have and see the beauty in this super interesting life I am living!
If you could write anything you wanted on a billboard in NYC’s Times Square that would reach millions of people, what would it read? “I rise by rising others”. That’s exactly what my Instagram Sparkleupyourmind is all about. You would only see pictures of me and think everything is about me. But it’s the people who reach out to me, pink sisters or healthy people and the opportunities I receive, that make it happen, that makes me sparkle and motivated even more.