Some of the most mundane moments we live become life-altering ones we’ll never forget.
When Randi Rentz’s father passed away, she was in his attic cleaning up, and this is an unforgettable moment that happened four years ago.
“I was in my father’s attic, pushing, pulling, and throwing things because he had junk accumulating for over 40 years,” she says. “I was going through things, bent for several hours. I kept getting a sharp, shooting pain under my breast like someone was slicing me.”
Randi thought it might have something to do with her back, so she went to her chiropractor. As she was lying on her stomach, her breast really hurt, which was unusual. She knew something wasn’t right, so she called her doctor and asked for her mammogram to be moved up.
From there, she had tests, ultrasounds, even a visit to a surgeon to see if he could detect what was wrong. Nine and a half weeks after that pain in the attic, Randi received the news.
Knowing is Just the Beginning
“I was in my car driving [when my surgeon called], and he asked me to pull over. He said he got the pathology report back, and in reading it, saw that the cells were conducive to ductal carcinoma,” she says. “He said ‘you have breast cancer but you’ll be fine’ and I didn’t say anything.”
“I was hearing static, getting a little dizzy. I was shocked,” she says.
Her surgeon asked her to make an appointment for the following day, and she did. After she hung up, Randi called her best friend.
“She got me through the loss of my father,” Randi says of her best friend. “She was my motivator during that call, and she met me the next day [at the doctor’s office]. She came up with a list of questions like I did. I wasn’t sure if I would be hearing what the doctor would say, so I wanted another set of ears.”
It was a dismal day, Randi recalls. She was looking out the window while she sat in the doctor’s office. It took her some time to assimilate the conversation her best friend and doctor were having.
“I wasn’t hearing anything until he started drawing illustrations, going through several options,” she says.
One option was having a lumpectomy—a surgical procedure where just the tumor is removed which is relatively non-invasive.
“I woke up and remember the nurse was standing over me,” Randi says. “She had good news: my lymph nodes were clean. And that was the best news of my life.”
Randi had stage 1 cancer, but a grade 3 tumor; this means that the tumor was growing rapidly. Although this was relatively good news, Randi wasn’t in the clear just yet, but she had the support of good friends along the way.
“I remember waking up in my hospital room, and seeing my friend sitting there, with magazines and food,” she says. “I had friends who came to visit me, cracking jokes, saying I looked great and beautiful. And when I got home, my friends stayed the night with me, and cooked me dinner.”
Getting Through Chemo
After she recovered from her surgery, Randi went back to her job as a teacher for kids K-5 on the Autism spectrum. She soon met with an oncologist to decide on her post-surgery treatment. They explored the options, and opted for chemotherapy—an aggressive treatment.
“I wanted chemo in case there was one sneaky cell that fled the coup,” she says.
She took a tour of the chemo suite where she’d receive treatment. Since treatment lasted several weeks, Randi got to know the staff and other patients there very well.
“It turned out that chemo for me was almost like being at camp,” she says laughing. “I was eventually known as ‘The Candy Girl’ because I gave candy to all the patients, and I got people talking and moving. At one point I had races with people dragging their I.V. from their rooms to the bathroom!”
Chemo was tough, and Randi did what she could to get through it.
“There were times when I couldn’t walk,” she says. “I didn’t feel the effects for two and-a-half days, but when I did, it felt like someone was smashing my bones with a hammer and then pulling on both ends.”
“It’s cumulative in your system, so it gets harder and harder each time you go,” she says.
Randi would receive chemo on Wednesdays because the effects of chemo wouldn’t hit her until the weekend. By Monday morning, Randi was able to muster enough strength to be at work, and start the cycle all over again.
To help her through, she wore her mother’s diamonds, and brought the blanket her father used when he was in the hospital, just before he passed. Coincidentally, that blanket was pink.
“It was tough. I did it. And I had a party when it was over.”
“Being sullen just wasn’t for me.”
After chemo, Randi went though radiation therapy, which she described as a breeze compared to chemo.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Randi’s story shows that there can be a life after breast cancer—and her story gives other women hope.
She kept a journal throughout her experience, and is in the process of publishing her first book, Why Buy a Wig When You Can Buy Diamonds. Her friend got her in touch with the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBCC), where she blogs once a month.
“I really like the fact that they’re hands-on with people, and try to educate them,” Randi says about LBCC. “They’re more than just a website. They offer conferences, have helplines, fundraising opportunities, even yoga on the steps. They really center on not only a diagnosis, and living during your cancer, but also focus on the ‘after’.”
You can show your support for LBCC with a donation to their fundraising page, and even help them receive a donation from Mightycause at the end of the month by Liking the PinkGiving Campaign! More details about that here.