Hope for the Holidays
Tori was experiencing pain and fatigue that she thought were related to her work as a Sous Chef and a second job as seasonal Food and Beverage Manager. In those jobs, the Bellefontaine native regularly lifted heavy cases of products and worked 70 or more hours a week. Her doctors told her she was fine, that maybe she was just overdoing it by working and lifting too much.
Then, Tori felt a hard lump in her breast when she was lying down. She originally thought she had rolled over onto her phone, but soon realized that was not the case. She thought she might be overreacting, but after talking to her mother, decided to call her doctor’s office to get the area checked. After being evaluated, Tori was referred to an imaging center, where a week later she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The diagnosis was difficult, psychologically, since for over a year her doctors said nothing was wrong. Then, the anxiety of what the next year of her life would look like, trying to balance life with cancer treatments, became overwhelming. She had been having fatigue and pain in her back for quite a while, but none of her doctors pursued her complaints.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer, Tori was led to believe she most likely had early stage breast cancer because she was so young. However, less than three weeks later, scans showed that the cancer had metastasized to her bones, lungs, liver, and kidney. Although the cancer had spread, Tori originally thought she could still work. However, the physical work of lifting and long hours were too much, with broken bones from metastasis and a new treatment regimen. So, just over a year of working her first career after graduating college, Tori had to retire and apply for long term disability.
“I went three months without any income,” Tori said. “I have student loans and wasn’t sure how I would be able to pay them back. I also lost my health insurance after my medical leave expired, since I still wasn’t able to go back to work.”
Tori found out through the Chaplin at her cancer center about Young Survivors Coalition and started attending their meetings. Young Survivors Coalition is a support group targeting women under the age of 40 who are diagnosed with breast cancer. It was at one of these meetings, which were hosted at Cancer Support Community, that she learned more about the resources available through Cancer Support Community. Tori contacted Angie Santangelo, Cancer Support Community’s licensed social worker and Program Director, who helped Tori access programs and services that would help her during her cancer journey.
“Knowing I was not the only one in this situation has made it easier,” Tori offered. “Living in small town can be very isolating [when it comes to being young with Metastatic Breast Cancer] but connecting with others who have been through the same thing has been helpful.”
Tori continues to attend the Young Survival Coalition support group meetings when she is in Columbus for treatment. While her first line of treatment kept Tori stable for about 16 months, her cancer is currently active. Even though there is still no cure or promise of remission for metastatic breast cancer, Tori says: “The hope is that my treatments will continue to sustain me for years to come.” While her diagnosis is currently terminal, there is hope that with continued research, metastatic breast cancer can one day be treated as a chronic rather than a terminal condition.