Don’t take your health for granted
After a routine mammogram, Elizabeth Grooms received a call from her doctor saying that because of her dense breast tissue, they’d like her to come back in for an ultrasound.
At that appointment, she said the ultrasound looked like a spider. The next day, she had a biopsy and her fear was confirmed.
Elizabeth was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in April of 2022 at the age of 48.
“I was crying in the grocery store, and said I’d have to call them back,” she said. “It was pretty overwhelming.”
She said she does have a history of cancer in her family – her great grandmother died of breast cancer and her father had blood cancer.
Doctors told her she had a mutation of her CHEK2 gene. This gene normally helps prevent cancers, but a mutation will cause it to stop working.
Elizabeth said she’s a researcher by nature, so she started joining all the Facebook groups and absorbing all the information she could about her diagnosis.
The initial plan was for her to have a lumpectomy, but there would still be the chance of recurrence. Instead of a lifetime of biannual scans, she chose to have a double mastectomy to lower her chances of the cancer returning. She also chose to not to do reconstructive surgery, so she wouldn’t have to deal with having expanders put in and the possibility of side effects.
She didn’t have to go through radiation but endured four rounds of chemotherapy every 21 days.
After that, she started Lupron shots which shut down her ovaries. This basically tells her body to stop making estrogen, which threw her into menopause. She said she’ll be on hormone blockers for the next five years, and is currently getting acupuncture to help with the pain.
Elizabeth received a lot of support from family and friends. Her friends from Chicago came up to help her out while her husband was at work. She also received a lot of flowers, plants, socks and blankets. But she said the best gift was a bucket of yarn so she could knit.
She said it wasn’t a terrible recovery, but there’s still numbness and tenderness in her breasts.
“You never feel the same again,” Elizabeth stated.
As a massage therapist, she’s using her hands for work, and a side effect of the cancer treatment is her hands are sore a lot. She didn’t work during the five months of treatment, and is still careful about how much she does.
“It’s been a huge adjustment,” Elizabeth said who is so tired from treatment, she’s had to change her daily routine to give her body time to rest.
She said there’s a “loss of innocence” when you have a diagnosis like this.
“You can’t just assume that you’re going to be OK,” she said. “I’m going to have to live my life every day with this in the back of my peripheral vision [which makes planning the future hard].”
Through this journey, Elizabeth said there’s been a release of not having to do it all.
“I took care of people for a living and then I just had to take care of myself and prioritize myself,” she said.
She said there’s a lot of unrealistic expectations put on women in society today.
“A lot of what I do is teach women how to prioritize themselves and put up healthy boundaries.” She went on to say that she doesn’t want women taking their health for granted.
Her advice for someone who is diagnosed with breast cancer: “Utilize all your resources. Ask for help and lean on your people.”
“I think for women it can be hard to receive, and be hard to be seen so vulnerable.”
And if you know of someone going through this, she said to not ask them what they need. But rather, just show up and be supportive by making meals, helping with the kids or cleaning the house.
Elizabeth and her husband Troy of 20 years live in Bailey’s Harbor and have a son.
She owns Creating Balance Wellness, a massage therapy practice in Door County. She enjoys kitting, hiking reading and anything creative like weaving and painting. She also raises chickens, which they initially got for the free eggs, but said they’re now more like pets.
As far as her future plans, Elizabeth said she’s taking some time to fuel her creative side to hopefully figure out her next step in life.
“I’m also OK with just being a chicken farmer!”
Need some updated photos for your holiday cards? NOW is the time to book your Christmas mini session! We have three different options this year…
(use voucher code RPP2023 to save $50!)