Liverpool Haley, a Liverpool mom of seven children, five of whom were adopted from Ethiopia, first found a lump in her breast in September of 2012, but after a mammogram, she was told it was a plugged duct. Haley had already tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene 10 years earlier. She was due for a follow-up appointment in December of 2012, but instead had to have open heart surgery to repair a prolapsed mitral valve, a common heart defect. She finally returned for her follow-up last year, only to learn that the “plugged duct” had grown; a biopsy revealed it was cancerous. Haley underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, but the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer.
“I remember crying for days, trying to process it,” Haley said. “Losing my hair was a constant reminder. The cancer is always ‘in your face.’ It's real, it's scary and it sucks.”
The diagnosis was also hard on her kids, who range in age from 11 to 18.
“The kids took it hard,” she said. “It's been difficult for them, not knowing if [I will] be okay, seeing me go through treatments and being sick for six or seven days afterward. I [can't] go to some of their after school activities, sports and band concerts. I've missed out on a lot that [has been] going on in their lives.”
Fortunately, Haley, who is also going through a divorce, has plenty of friends who were willing to step up to the plate.
“[I've] ended up having to rely heavily on my friends to not only transport me to and from treatments, other appointments and multiple surgeries, but also to transport my kids to work and games,” she said. “They've made us meals and continually offer help.”