Are you going to die?
No, of course I’m not going to die!
Pierce County Family Connections Coordinator Stephanie Bell recently had that conversation with her youngest child. Bell, a 46-year-old mother of six children between the ages of eight and 25, was diagnosed with breast cancer last month. She is just beginning her journey through surgery, treatment and recovery during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but Bell is attacking the disease aggressively and has been quick to offer words of advice to others fighting, too.
Bell is lucky. Her cancer was discovered early and she enters this battle with a 99 percent survival rate. She quickly eased her children’s fears last month with those statistics.
“You give them the numbers, and they totally get it,” Bell says.
Now, they tell her, “You’ve got this mom.”
But all the research, preparation and medical advancements in the world can’t ease the emotional and mental strain of a cancer diagnosis.
“You want to be strong because you want your kids to think you’re not scared,” Bell explains.
“It’s ok to cry,” Bell says. And, she has.
Now she’s telling others — don’t be afraid.
“It’s ok if you don’t know what to do, and it’s ok to ask your doctor a million questions. Keep a positive attitude and never turn away aid from others who love you,” she says.
“Don’t assume the worst. A positive attitude will go a very long way to healing in the long run,” Bell says. “People want to help you. They want to tell you their stories. They want to bring you food.”
Bell went two years without a mammogram and didn’t fret at all. With no family history of breast cancer, she didn’t consider herself to be at risk. But, when her doctor wrote the order for one earlier this year, she went.
“I could tell while they were doing the scan that there must be something wrong,” Bell says.
Her premonition was true.
Just three weeks after her scan, Bell was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer. She’ll undergo a single mastectomy in November, hormone treatment and reconstruction. Bell won’t take radiation, but chemotherapy hasn’t been entirely ruled out yet.
Bell is also attacking her cancer “from the inside out.” She’s changed her diet, following extensive research into the power of proper nutrition to speed the healing process.
“This is something I want to do forever because I want to keep the cancer cells at bay. I want to starve them of their oxygen and, at the same time, I want to keep other diseases away,” Bell says.
The struggle can be overwhelming at times, but Bell maintains her positive outloook, crediting the strength and calm she feels to the many prayers lifted up on her behalf. Cancer may change her outlook on life for the better, she points out.
“You want cancer to change you because there is some reason why you are where you are,” Bell says.