Michele Is Too Busy To Let Breast Cancer Sideline Her For Long

Michele's cat and the Breast Cancer Program at UI Health saved her life

"My cat saved my life!"

In the mornings, he gets up on my chest while I'm in bed. One day, he was doing the kneading cats do near my right shoulder and it hurt more than it should have. I checked the area and it didn't feel right.

My doctors at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System discovered cancer on my right breast and saw things in my left breast that didn't look right. I decided to have a double mastectomy - I didn't want that threat looming over me.

I had my double mastectomy on December 14, 2011, and my first reconstructive surgery the following spring. My breast-reconstruction surgeon, Dr. Anuja Antony, spent a lot of time giving me all the information I needed and put me in touch with other women who had gone through reconstructive surgery to talk with me about the process.

Everything was planned around school breaks; I'm in nursing school and I didn't want to lose ground on my studies. I did have to miss an entire roller derby season, though.

 I started roller derby when I was looking for something special to do for my 40th birthday. I tried out, and then when I made the team, I was afraid I was going to get beat up by all these younger women. But I discovered that roller derby shows you what you can do, how to overcome obstacles and challenges, not just physically but mentally. There were a few times I felt like saying to the cancer, 'You can't hurt me, I play roller derby."

This year, when the season starts, I will be there and I will be doing pushups.

"For the situation I was in, I feel I had the best possible experience. I love my doctors at UI Health. And I love my cat."