“You’re stronger than you think.”
Traci VanDeYacht had a routine mammogram in 2019 When the nurse came back into her waiting room and said, “you might just wanna keep your gown on.”
They immediately did an ultrasound and told her a biopsy needed to be scheduled.
Traci stated that she does not have any cancer in her family history. She even had the genetic testing done, and they all came back negative, so she wasn’t super worried.
She had that procedure done on a Friday and she got the call the following week while at work, that she did have breast cancer.
“I was shocked,” she said. “It was a crazy amount of emotions for all of us.”
The diagnosis was stage 1B breast cancer. Traci was 46 years old.
The nurse told her that the doctor wouldn’t be able to see her for two weeks. She had no idea what her treatment plan was going to be like, and was not happy with this answer.
Luckily, she had some connections at Aurora and was able to get an appointment two days later. She had all her records transferred there right away. Within one week she had a port put in and started her four-month treatment of chemotherapy.
“It (breast cancer) is so well-researched, and I felt 100% comfortable with the treatment plan,” she said. “A lot of people have what I have.”
She had triple negative breast cancer, and her doctor said if she would’ve waited even one month to make an appointment, it could’ve been at stage three.
She said her hair started falling out after her very first chemo treatment, and that was a really bizarre experience.
“You try to remind yourself it’s just hair, and it grows back so fast.”
She said she sat on her back patio with her husband and kids, and shaved her head. She tried to keep a smile on her face, but ultimately the tears appeared.
She got a wig, but hated it at first because it made her head itch. She said she wore a lot of hats and eventually took to the wig, which she said was beautiful.
“Strangers would comment on how beautiful my hair looked,” she said.
Traci’s lumpectomy surgery kept getting delayed because they had to wait for her blood counts to increase (to fight off infections). Then, about a month later she did radiation every day for five weeks. She said that was way easier than chemo, which she explained was a very strange and weird experience.
“A person comes into the room in a full hazmat suit to give you the chemo medication, and you’re thinking, ‘what the heck am I putting into my body?’”
Radiation provides an additional percentage of cancer not returning, but she said it was a a crazy experience with machines circling your body.
Traci wanted to be done with treatment by Christmas so she could start a new year with a fresh outlook, and she did.
She said the hardest thing is the unknown in the beginning.
“Not letting your brain get to ‘what if’ this doesn’t all work,” she said. “But then you get in fight mode, and you just don’t let yourself think that.”
Traci said every nurse and every doctor was so nice and so good at their jobs. They told her to not change her routine too much to avoid wallowing in the sadness of her diagnosis.
She said her friends and family were always checking in on her and bringing her food.
“I’ve never had so many fresh flowers in my house!”
She said she was proud of herself for staying positive.
“It makes you realize you can go through things you don’t necessarily think you can; that you’re stronger than you think,” she said.
Traci wants to stress how easy a mammogram is, and that people need to take charge of their health.
She said she has a friend undergoing radiation right now, and her advice to her is to not look up things on the internet.
“It’s a great resource, but it’s also awful because it lets your mind go where it shouldn’t,” she said.
She also advises anyone going through this to stay positive and to keep moving and exercising.
“Just be happy you’re moving your body,” said Traci. “It might not always be easy, but there was a time when my whole body ached during treatment.”
Wants to travel more to adventurous locations abroad to expand her horizons.
Traci and Troy, her husband of 26 years, live in Suamico and have two kids 20 and 24.
She is a secretary for her husband’s business, VanDeYacht Well Drilling.
She enjoys boating, snowmobiling and vacationing. They were in the British Virgin Islands and Florida earlier this year, and are renting a house in Cape Coral, FL this upcoming winter.
This December will be four years she’s been cancer-free.
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