My guest on this episode is Lori Marini. She is a coach and the podcast host of Conversations with Courageous Cancer Warriors. Lori was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma and DCIS in June 2017 at the age of 41. Lori was working as a tumor expert and with those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer when she diagnosed. She talked about the unexpected emotional toll, the importance of finding gratitude, and how she became a coach to help others navigate through a cancer diagnosis.
In June 2017, Lori was diagnosed with stage 2 infiltrated ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in-situ. She was 41 at the time of her diagnosis.
When she turned 40, she had seen her PCP for a routine exam and was told that she needed to schedule a mammogram as a baseline, based on the medical guidelines. There was no concern for breast cancer. She did not have a family history and she did routine self-exams.
At that time, she had just started a new job working with metastatic breast cancer patients and became consumed with her job that she never made her appointment for the baseline mammogram. Lori returned for her next routine appointment with her PCP and apologized for not making the appointment. Her PCP informed Lori that the guidelines for a mammogram had changed to 45 years old so she had another 4 years. Lori wasn’t sure how she felt about that considering that she worked in oncology as a tumor expert.
Two weeks later, Lori had a dream that her body was riddled with cancer. Feeling unsettled by the dream, she contacted her doctor and was scheduled for a baseline mammogram the following day. When she was called back in for more diagnostic testing, she was not overly concerned as this can be pretty typical. She was then referred for an ultrasound. It wasn’t until image 65 and when they were looking in the lymph nodes that she thought maybe something was wrong.
Lori was referred for a biopsy. The radiologist had not communicated what was going on, which seemed to come as a surprise to her as a medical professional. Lori was certain that she had breast cancer but found it frustrating that no one was communicating to her that it was a concern. Working in the medical facility where she was having her testing completed, Lori was able to access the results of her biopsy confirming that she had breast cancer.
Lori had 4 masses on her left side as well as DCIS. One of the tumors was more than 2cm. She recalls that she just went through the motions. Lori opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. She didn’t really have time to think about what it meant to have implants. She went back and forth with this decision. For Lori, the reconstructive process was the hardest. She experienced complications and multiple surgeries related to reconstruction. She is currently taking Tamoxifen, which has been a struggle. She gave her body a break from Tamoxifen for approximately 2 months and then completed a dutch test, which is a urinalysis test to assess hormone levels. The test indicated that her hormone levels are moving in the wrong directions so she has started Tamoxifen again. Her only option is to have her ovaries removed but she is not in the space of thinking about another surgery.
Lori was most surprised by the emotional part of being diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn’t talk to many people about what she was dealing with, even those that were closest to her. She was in survival mode and was just trying to get through it because she needed to return to work. She also faced a mental challenge in working with metastatic patients following her own diagnosis. Lori felt like she was going to manifest metastatic breast cancer in herself. She felt like she put up a barrier in an effort to protect herself. As a tumor expert, Lori felt as though she knew too much about cancer, which is what led her to become a coach.
Lori helps those diagnosed with cancer read through their medical reports. Lori does not offer medical advice but helps her clients to understand the medical jargon and what it means for them, as well as the different options that are available.
Lori wants others to know that it is okay to be your own best advocate. If you don’t like something or don’t like the way something is going, speak up. The doctors are there to support you and not control you. It is important to be informed. Going through cancer is like a grieving process and you should allow yourself to feel that. If need be, find a group of people that allow you to feel everything you might feel. She encourages others to find gratitude and the humor in it and to keep a positive attitude.