In honor of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, we had the pleasure of talking to a brave, inspiring, incredible survivor and Kopari friend, Morgan. We asked her to share her touching story with you all in hopes of spreading strength and comfort to anyone fighting the same battle or supporting someone who is.
Do you mind telling me a little bit about yourself first?
My full name is Morgan Wolf. I’m 31 years old and I’m from a small town called Oley Valley, Pennsylvania. I moved to San Diego in 2011 to pursue my Doctorate in Nursing Practice. I now work as a Nurse Practitioner and Regional Director for LaserAway.
How did you discover something wasn't right? How were you diagnosed?
I noticed a lump on my right breast one day while I was taking a shower. I remember running my hand across my chest and feeling a marble size lump. For the life of me, I could not figure out how I had not felt it before. I immediately felt a pit in my stomach.
In my gut, I knew something wasn’t right, but it was a few days before my 31st birthday and I felt too young for it to be something really serious. I waited a couple days, hoping it would magically feel smaller or go away. I tried to push aside my biggest fear that it could be cancer and instead kept telling myself it was probably a cyst. I decided to have it checked out and went to my primary care doctor who sent me directly to a breast specialist. The breast specialist ordered a mammogram and ultrasound right away and that very same day I had a biopsy done.
It was November 9th, at about 12:30pm when I got the call from Kaiser (about 2 or 3 weeks from when I initially found the lump). I was at work at the time and I’ll never forget that day or the feeling I had when those words hit me…”your results are back, I’m sorry its not better news, you have breast cancer.” Grade 3, triple positive, invasive ductal carcinoma to be exact.
Tell us about what you went through.
The week following my diagnosis was filled with what seemed like endless doctor appointments. I needed to know what my options were and I wanted to get a second and third opinion to make sure I was going to get the best and right treatment for me. It only took 2 weeks to determine that the treatment plan was pretty straightforward across the board.
Every oncologist told me I would need neoadjuvant chemotherapy (which means having chemotherapy prior to having any surgical removal of the tissue) followed by surgery (either lumpectomy and radiation or mastectomy) followed by more infusions and oral medications. The entire process was going to be at least a 5-year treatment plan.
The first 6 chemotherapy treatments were tough. I was in the infusion center every 3 weeks and would be there for about 4 ½ hours each time. In the days following each infusion, I experienced a lot of fatigue, body pain, bloating, and nausea. I also fought some depression throughout my treatments because it was nearly impossible to stop some of the dark thoughts, especially while laying around in bed all day. My hair fell out just 2 weeks after my very first infusion, which was really difficult for me as well. The good news is that I was able to get back to my near normal self about 1 week after each treatment, which surprised nearly everyone around me including myself.
My hair is now returning, I’ve gone through a full double mastectomy and had my breast reconstruction started in the same surgery. I currently have “spacers” in my chest which help to stretch my skin and muscle in preparation for my next breast reconstructive surgery. I have 3 more infusions to go, for a total of 17. I’m now in the homestretch and I’m feeling very optimistic. Life it good ;)
What advice would you give to women on staying positive throughout the toughest of times?
Keep your mind busy if you can. Surround yourself with a good support group, whether that is your own friends and family or other women and men going through the same thing or something similar. I also found it helpful to turn some of the scary parts of treatment into something fun. Before my hair fell out, I dyed it all purple and got a funky haircut that I would have never done before. I also took it upon myself to shave my own head when the time came. I wanted to be in control of that.
Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel is important women should know (being sure to check yourself, etc.)?
Self-awareness is so important. Know your body and what normal is for you. The sooner you catch something the better, so don’t wait around on getting yourself checked out because you are scared or facing denial. Some studies are stating that self-breast exams are no longer necessary but I strongly believe that we all know our bodies best and can detect a lump or change in the breast or body that hadn’t been there before. For women who are over 40…get your mammogram! It’s really not as bad as you might think and it’s totally worth your life.
Thought I’d also share this…I read this story early on in my chemotherapy treatments and it really hit home for me. (read below)
Cancer: the mountain lion in your fridge
What’s it like to go through cancer treatment? It’s something like this: one day, you’re minding your own business, you open the fridge to get some breakfast, and HOLY SHIT… THERE’S A MOUNTAIN LION IN YOUR FRIDGE.
Wait, what? How? Why is there a mountain lion in your fridge? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN. RUN! THE MOUNTAIN LION WILL KILL YOU! UNLESS YOU FIND SOMETHING EVEN MORE FEROCIOUS TO KILL IT FIRST!
So you take off running, and the mountain lion is right behind you. You know the only thing that can kill a mountain lion is a bear, and the only bear is on top of the mountain, so you better find that bear. You start running up the mountain in hopes of finding the bear. Your friends desperately want to help, but they are powerless against mountain lions, as mountain lions are killing machines. But they really want to help, so they’re cheering you on and bringing you paper cups of water and orange slices as you run up the mountain and yelling at the mountain lion – “GET LOST, MOUNTAIN LION, NO ONE LIKES YOU” – and you really appreciate the support, but the mountain lion is still coming.
Also, for some reason, there’s someone in the crowd who’s yelling “that’s not really a mountain lion, it’s a puma” and another person yelling “I read that mountain lions are allergic to kale, have you tried rubbing kale on it?”
As you’re running up the mountain, you see other people fleeing their own mountain lions. Some of the mountain lions seem comparatively wimpy – they’re half grown and only have three legs or whatever, and you think to yourself – why couldn’t I have gotten one of those mountain lions? But then you look over at the people who are fleeing mountain lions the size of a monster truck with huge prehistoric saber fangs, and you feel like an asshole for even thinking that – and besides, who in their right mind would want to fight a mountain lion, even a three-legged one?
Finally, the person closest to you, whose job it is to take care of you – maybe a parent or sibling, a best friend or boyfriend, in my case, all of the above – come barging out of the woods and jump on the mountain lion, whaling on it and screaming “GODDAMMIT MOUNTAIN LION, STOP TRYING TO EAT MORGAN,” and the mountain lion punches everyone right in the face. Now your people are rolling around on the ground clutching their noses, and they’ve bought you some time, but you still need to get to the top of the mountain.
Eventually, you reach the top, finally, and the bear is there. Waiting. You rush right up to the bear, and the bear rushes the mountain lion, but the bear has to go through you to get to the mountain lion, and in doing so, the bear TOTALLY KICKS YOUR ASS, but not before it also punches your homies in the face. And everyone is now staggering around with a black eye and bloody nose, and saying “can I get some help, I’ve been punched in the face by two apex predators and I think my nose is broken,” and all you can say is “I’M KIND OF BUSY IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED I’M FIGHTING A MOUNTAIN LION.”
Then, IF YOU ARE LUCKY, the bear leaps on the mountain lion and they are locked in epic battle until finally the two of them roll off a cliff edge together, and the mountain lion is dead.
Maybe. You’re not sure – it fell off the cliff, but mountain lions are crafty. It could come back at any moment.
And all your friends come running up to you and say “that was amazing! You’re so brave, we’re so proud of you! You didn’t die! That must be a huge relief!”
Meanwhile, you blew out both your knees, you’re having an asthma attack, you twisted your ankle, and also you have been mauled by a bear. And everyone says “boy, you must be excited to walk down the mountain!” And all you can think as you stagger to your feet is “f*ck this mountain, I never wanted to climb it in the first place.”
We are SO proud of you Morgan and inspired by your fight to survive!
For more about Morgan's story check out her touching Youtube video here.