My name is Laurie Parkhurst. I re-connected with and married my High School sweetheart, Michael, in 1997. We had our first daughter, Ahnna, in 2000 and our second, Sophia, in 2002. These precious girls landed me my dream job…being their mother and my husband's wife!
As a couple, Mike and I knew that life would bring its up's and down's, but we never could have imagined that cancer would touch our lives when we were still young. In April of 2004, I noticed that my left breast was red and warm to the touch. I showed my Mom what I was concerned about. She advised me to go to the doctor as soon as possible.
The doctor thought that I might have an infection. Relieved, I thought that was a possibility because I had just weaned our youngest from breastfeeding a few months earlier. The doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory cream, an antibiotic, and to be safe a precautionary mammogram.
The mammogram showed that I needed to get a biopsy. Within 24 hours of that original doctor's appointment, we had the results: Stage 3 Advanced Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my left breast. I…had stage-three cancer.
I was 34 years old, had two sweet baby girls ages 2 and 4 and a loving, hardworking husband.
My body was under attack and now so was our life. The doctors gave me a 30 percent chance to survive. Determined to fight, we struck back at the cancer with a hard battle.
With no time to catch my breath, the doctors immediately scheduled my chemotherapy with hopes of shrinking the tumor. I also chose to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction, and nineteen lymph nodes removed. I had great care at home from Mike and family. With just enough time to recover from surgery, I then began 20 daily radiation treatments to my chest.
Eventually, we won! I was cancer free, with no evidence of disease!
My oncologist, Dr. David Squires, kept a close eye on me with visits every few months. We finally reached that magical five-year mark! All was good: we were so thankful and breathing a sigh of relief.
That relief - my relief- was short lived. A mere 5 months later (in February 2010) my cancer was back and had metastasized to my sternum and lungs. Again: life changed without warning.
The news was certainly not good and very upsetting, almost unbearable. We knew, however, that we had to move forward. We had no choice. And while life had delivered another blow, like the months and years before we would fight.
Our family TIME together became more precious than ever before. Like many Super Bowl champions or Olympic medalists who choose to celebrate at Disney, our family had planned a Disney trip the same week we received the new diagnosis. Off we went to enjoy our time together!
Upon our return, I underwent a number of chemotherapies to combat the cancer any way possible. In August of 2011 we began the battle once again, only this time the enemy was winning.
I became concerned when I would occasionally see spots or have wavy vision. When I almost blacked out while entering a grocery store, I knew something was terribly wrong. Mike also mentioned concern, so we made an appointment to see the doctor. Turned out I had multiple tumors in my brain.
In Dr. Squires words, "too many to count." Oh dear God.
Mike, my Mom and I just sat there. We were so devastated. We had always been honest and open with our children regarding my health, and yet I couldn't help wonder how in God's name we would tell them that their mother would die from this disease? It would not be easy to look at their precious young faces and utter those words with strength and hope. But we did and we got through it.
Over the years, we have had this discussion with our children, parents, and family members all too often. Ultimately, my cancer has demanded 24 different types of chemotherapy, multiple radiation treatments to the chest, full brain radiation, half brain radiation, and four Gamma Knife surgeries. Mike calls me his "little glow stick" (Yes, it's OK to laugh at this. In fact, I hope you will…laughter is great medicine). In reality, all of these opportunities for treatment, one-by-one, have saved my life.
My resolve has always been to "Be The Miracle"! I have decided to claim that victory. As long as I am able, I will fight this disease in hopes to win the war, not just the battles, set before me.
I am honored to share my story and support cancer research TGen. At TGen, the scientists, researchers, and professionals are dedicated to preventing, diagnosing and treating not just cancer, but many other life threatening diseases, too. TGen is paving new paths not just for patients, but their families as well. I am confident that with innovative genetic research, diagnostic testing, biotechnology and modern medicine, we will continue to progress far beyond what any of us can imagine.
Lastly, I leave you with this: All that life comes down to is TIME. That is all we have and that is all that I want. TIME to raise my children, TIME to grow old with my husband, and TIME to be with my family!
Thank you for reading my story. Please consider helping TGen pioneer the way toward medical breakthroughs. Believe me, you never know when these advances will benefit you or your family.
Please cherish your TIME today and always!
Accelerating the cure for cancer,
PS: The photos of my oldest daughter Ahnna are of her doing what she loves...racing. I'd like to thank the Richard Childress Racing Team for giving her an opportunity to participate in her sport at the highest level possible and with a team dedicated to winning.