Claire was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in early March.
She found a lump in her left breast and thought it was probably nothing, she said. She was still nursing her youngest, Chloe, at the time and thought it was more likely a clogged duct, or something do do with her menstrual cycle. A few weeks later, not only had it not gone away, but it had grown. With no health insurance at the time, the Figueras family began a circuitous route to discovering that the lump was cancerous. After weeks of frustrating phone calls, Claire was able to enroll in Humana Health Care through Obamacare. Although the tumor was found only in one breast, after some careful thought, Claire opted for a double mastectomy.
Through a friend, I was introduced to her in late April. We met on April 22, one day before she underwent surgery.
The morning we met, one day before the surgery, we talked for almost 3 hours. Our girls go to the same school. She’s got three of her own – Chloe, 2, Kiara, 7, and Hannah, 9. Before I left, we captured a few portraits. As I left, her husband, Bert, was on the phone dealing with an insurance issue.
Claire’s surgery the next day was longer than expected. Cancer was found in her lymph nodes in her left arm and all the nodes were subsequently removed. Her treatment plan now will now involve chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy.
Those are the very basic facts.
But facts cannot properly explain how open Claire has been to sharing her journey into this new and uncertain journey into breast cancer treatment.
She and her husband, Bert, have been full of graciousness, humor and open vulnerability in the time I’ve spent with them so far. As Claire headed into pre-op on the morning of the surgery, he recounted a conversation they had had about her body changing after surgery. “I don’t care about her breasts,” he said. “I’m not in love with her breasts. I’m in love with her soul.”
One morning, at home after the surgery, Claire described how well her littlest one has been in respecting her surgical wounds, careful not to hang on mommy too much. “She’s been great,” Claire said. “She says ‘Mama boo boo’ when she sees my drains. It’s been harder on me, actually. I want to cuddle her and that hurts a little.”
Yesterday, on Mother’s Day weekend, Claire arranged for haircuts. “It’s going to fall out anyway,” she said.
Hannah’s long ponytail will be donated to create wigs for other cancer patients.
“It’s just hair,” she said, echoing her mother’s bravery and enthusiasm.
*** If you would like to send a gift of gratitude to Claire for sharing her story, please click this link: http://gfwd.at/1kZTbak
Donating is easy, makes you feel good, and will definitely help this family get through a long journey ahead.