In May of 2007, at age 47, Carla went in to see her OBGYN for a yearly well women’s exam where a very tiny lump was felt in her breast. Her doctor didn’t think it was anything to be overly concerned about, but he went ahead and scheduled Carla to have a mammogram and ultrasound. The mammogram revealed nothing, but the ultrasound did show a small mass. That same day, Carla received a needle biopsy for further testing. She was not worried or stressed, as she thought it would come back as nothing at all…but she was wrong. The next week (June 5) Carla was diagnosed with breast cancer—lobular cell carcinoma, which is a very difficult type of breast cancer to detect that when not discovered grows out like a spiderweb. “It’s a miracle they even found it,” she says.
Later in June, Carla underwent a mastectomy, followed by chemo from August 2007-January 2008 and then six weeks of daily radiation from February to March 2008, ringing the treatment graduation bell on the same day as her wedding anniversary.
Through it all Carla remained resilient and was determined not to let cancer slow her down. As a successful realtor and consistently one of RE/MAX Space Center’s top producers, she continued to show houses, negotiate contracts, and go to her closings withouther clients and fellow realtors ever knowing she was going through cancer treatment. “I didn’t want to tell anyone as far as other realtors and clients,” she said. “I didn’t want my potential clients to think that they were bothering me or that they should let me rest during my treatment. I didn’t want people to look at me and feel sorry for me. This was just a bump in the road that I needed to get through.” When chemo treatments caused her to lose her hair Carla wore a wig that looked very similar in color, length and style to her own hair, that way no one could tell. It wasn’t important for her to share this personal information with colleagues or clients; her support system was her husband, her kids, her parents, her faith in God and her church.
She didn’t let cancer get in the way of her family life either—with three kids (one in elementary, one in junior high and one in college at the time) there were activities she wasn’t willing to miss. She continued to be an active president of her daughter’s choir booster club and went to all her sons football games, even the one he had the very next day after her first chemo treatment. “My attitude toward cancer was that it’s not going to get me. It was something I was going to go through for a little while, but it would all be fine.”
Today, Carla remains cancer free and believes “the reason this all happened is so I can could help others going through breast cancer, tell them what to expect and give them hope.” She also makes sure they are getting the best treatment. A client and friend of hers was diagnosed with breast cancer while Carla was helping her find a home. After hearing what her client’s doctors were telling her, Carla said, “No, you need to go to MD Anderson.” That client received treatment at MD Anderson in the Bay Area—where Carla was treated as one of the center’s first patients—and is doing great today. “I love the Bay Area center,” Carla said. “It’s so close to my house, which made it easy for me to schedule my treatments and then go about my day as planned.”
Carla is in good spirits and good health. Some of her later medications caused her to gain 30 pounds, but once she was off them she made diet changes and started going to the gym on a regular basis. So far she has lost 20 of those 30 pounds. She also started her own Relay for Life team—Carla’s Cancer Kickers—when she hit her five year survivorship mark.
To others who have just been diagnosed or who are undergoing treatment, Carla says, “Attitude is everything. You can expect to be sick, take sick leave and you probably will be sick with your treatment. Or you can push through it and trust God knowing that He is in control. Refuse to let it slow you down. Even difficult experiences can work for good, and you can be used as a light that can guide another person through a dark and frightening unknown.”