The second in the series of interviews with awesome breast cancer survivors is here, folks! I had the pleasure of working with this survivor for five years and she is just as amazing in person as she sounds on paper. I can’t wait for you to meet April and hear more about her story in this entry of…
The Pink Shoe Diaries
Tell readers a little about yourself.
My name is April St. John and I’m a middle school special education teacher for East Oldham Middle School. My teaching career began shortly after I retired from the Army National Guard flying helicopters. Alex is my 21 year old daughter and she still lives and works in Louisville. Biking is “my thing”! It gets me outdoors and keeps me fit. Biking, workouts, and eating clean allowed me to lose 30 pounds in 2016, over a short period of time, and keep off 22 of it! I have always loved fashion and home interior design. However, entertaining with friends and hanging out with my daughter are my two favorite social pastimes!
Tell us about your journey with breast cancer.
My diagnosis with breast cancer came at 49 years old after multiple health challenges in my 40’s; obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, migraines, and surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome as well as removal of half of my thyroid for a suspicious nodule. I chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction with implants when my surgeons suggested only a lumpectomy. My tumor was hidden under fibrous mammary glands and it was slow growing. However, I had been receiving annual mammograms starting at age 40 and the tumor was not detected until it was the size of a nickel, stage 2A, sometime in those nine years. My 10 year survivability increased by 2% by choosing a mastectomy as well. The choice of radical surgery meant I wouldn’t require radiation, either. I had researched and learned that radiation damages the heart. I didn’t want to take any chances since there is heart disease in my family medical history.
In addition, my oncologist had suggested chemotherapy but, I asked for the lab work to determine if my type of tumor would respond. I agreed with her to proceed had the score been within her specified limits.
Even she was shocked that my lab work revealed a very low score!
My participation in my medical care greatly improved my quality of life, as well as allowing me the ability to return to work in August after my surgery two months earlier. I had two more procedures after; my changing out of expanders to implants and nipple reconstruction. I was able to complete these last two procedures within 8 months of my mastectomy without taking off time from work. I had a high quality experience with The Norton Breast Center and my surgeons. The husband and wife practice of Dr. Brian Thornton and Dr. Tiffany Berry are an outstanding professional team! They listened, gave me feedback, and honored my choices. I’m so grateful for their care and guidance!
What did you learn about yourself, others, and the world throughout this journey?
I learned that I don’t ask for help, often enough.
There were times in my recovery when I should have allowed friends to serve me.
I keep my friends close and allow them to lean on me for support but, I don’t often ask friends for their help.
What advice would you give someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
The best advice I have given women who have come to me for advice is to bring someone with you to all your pre-surgery appointments. Bring a trusted friend or family member who can take notes for you while you listen and ask questions. Research shows that we (most of us!) forget 90% of what we newly learn within 24 hours, without material to review. It’s so important to understand what the medical professionals are telling you. Then, do your research before surgery.
Know your options and be a participant in your medical decisions and your treatment.
Thank you, April for your transparency and openness. It is so encouraging to hear stories of not only survival, but thriving on the other side of a breast cancer diagnosis. Drop a comment below to let April know you are rooting for her.