Updated: Jan 3
My name is Kate Nejman and I am 41 years old. My cancer journey began 4 years ago at a routine physical where I notified my doctor of a suspicious lump I had found in my right breast. She was hesitant to send me for a mammogram because I was only 37 years old, but due to a history of breast cancer in my family, she complied with my request for the test.
It was my first mammogram, so I did not know what to expect. The technician was kind and talked to me through the whole procedure. When it was finished, I was sent out to wait for my results. I started to notice that women who came in after me were leaving before me and that’s when I started to get nervous.
After what felt like an eternity, a technician came out and told me I needed to go back in for an ultrasound. It was at that moment I just knew something was wrong and that this wasn’t normal.
After the ultrasound I was sent across the hall to a breast surgeon’s office to schedule a biopsy. I wasn’t scared of having the procedure done but I was terrified of what the result might be. Somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew what they were going to tell me.
A week later, when I went back for the results of the biopsy my fear was confirmed. It was stage two invasive, ductal carcinoma.
All I heard was “cancer” and at that moment my world changed.
I barely had time to process my diagnosis when I was immediately sent to an appointment with an oncologist. She told me my treatment would entail 4 months of chemo, then surgery, then 6 weeks of radiation.
My treatment had a rocky start. Day 1 of chemo started with a surgical procedure to insert my port—the first of many battle scars. A week later I was in the hospital for 3 days because the port had caused a blood clot to form in my jugular vein. The clot started in my neck and went down the length of my left arm. As I laid in that hospital bed my mind raced with so many fears of what was to come, how treatment would impact my life and how I would pay my bills if I wasn’t able to work. I worked primarily as a figure skating coach, which is a very physically demanding job and at that moment I wasn’t even able to stand up let alone skate.
The day I was released from the hospital I was sent for my second chemo treatment. That was the day a social worker paid me a visit and told me about Dance for the Cure.
Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope knowing that there was someone out there who understood exactly what I was going through and was able to help.
Being the recipient of such a generous donation humbled me and also made me want to fight this battle and hopefully be well enough to return the favor one day. With my financial burden lifted, I was able to focus less on fear and more on positivity. As the weeks went by I realized that things were not as scary as they were in my head and that I could beat this. I made it through the rest of my treatment with a few more scars, a lot less hair and a much better outlook on life. And after 10 months, I was cancer-free. Being called a cancer survivor and not a cancer patient was a feeling no words could express.
Just as my life was getting back to normal, in December of 2020 I found out my cancer had returned. This time it had metastasized to my liver, hips, spine and lungs. I was suddenly back to being a cancer patient. This time treatment won’t make it go away. But this time the initial fear was replaced with determination. I have had my share of challenges and complications, but my current treatment has kept everything stable. It is not easy waking up every day knowing that you have stage 4 cancer, but every day I make a conscious effort to stay positive and focus on all the things cancer has taught me instead of what it has taken away from me. Here are just a few of those things:
Be grateful for every day, because life can change in an instant.
Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do. LIVE your life.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy.
Spend as much time as you can with the people you love.
And always be kind, because you never know what someone else is going through. I would like to extend my thanks to everyone at Dance for the Cure for the amazing work you do, to Kathleen Cirioli for allowing me to share my story and to all of you who have taken the time to read it.
Are you or someone you know struggling due to a breast cancer diagnosis?
We would like to help. Please visit https://www.danceforthecure.org/get-help