Traci Fotorny says her belief that breast cancer was part of God's plan for her life helped her get through the ordeal with a positive attitude and without questioning why she got the disease at just 47.
“The night before the surgery, I was very worried,” she says. “I stayed up most of the night being worried and praying, but I heard God say that He was going to allow me to walk the road of breast cancer, because someone would come to know Him through my cancer journey.
“I felt peace about the whole situation after that. Because of this, I never asked the question 'Why me?' because I knew why.”
Traci was diagnosed Oct. 13, 2017, after a lump “seemed to appear overnight,” she says. She didn't have a family history of breast cancer and had benign fibroadenomas in the past, so she was not too concerned. Still she called the breast clinic the next morning.
“They brought me in a few days later for a mammogram and ultrasound,” she says. “I was expecting this to be just another benign fibroadenoma.”
But this time, things were different. “The nurse told me they didn't like the way it looked on the imaging and they were going to do a biopsy right away. Usually, the biopsy is scheduled two or so weeks later.
“She left, then came back again and told me that they were going to skip the biopsy and would remove the lump in a few days because they really didn't like how it looked on the imaging.
“Three days after the lumpectomy surgery, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2B, hormone receptor positive, HER2 negative.
“I had to have a second surgery in November to get clear margins.”
Traci says she was told her tumor was located in a very unusual and uncommon location. “It was located in what the oncologist called a 'high-traffic area' with lots of room to run through blood vessels and lymph vessels.”
She says she was told she would need a very aggressive treatment plan or would likely die within a year. “So, I put on my boxing gloves and entered the ring for the fight of my life,” she says.
“I spent seven months going through a grueling regimen of chemo and radiation.”
Traci says the medical professionals remarked on the way she dealt with her treatments.
“The oncology nurses told me that in all the years they never saw anyone smile through treatment as much as I did. They never saw anyone have as much hope as I did. They never saw anyone laugh during treatment like I did.
“When someone looked at me, I didn't want them to see a body weakened by cancer and chemo. I didn't want them to see despair. I wanted them to see Jesus in me. I wanted them to see my hope and my unwavering, steadfast faith.
“No matter what prognosis the doctor gave, I never gave up hope because I knew there was a purpose for my pain, and a purpose for my struggles.
“I felt like I was in a win-win situation which sounded crazy to most people. If God used the treatment plan to heal me, I won. If He called me home to heaven, I still won because I would go to a place far more glorious than here. I found joy in the journey and joy even in the struggle.”
“After my treatments were done, a friend asked me to pray for her cousin who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I said I would and I asked if I could send her a care package. I had a pink box and filled it with things that were helpful during my treatment and with things that I hoped would encourage her. I included a handwritten note telling her who I was and that I was a breast cancer survivor too.
“A short time after mailing the care package, I got a letter back from her and she told me how much the package meant to her. She said it was nice to know that a complete stranger cared. She was very discouraged and was about to give up because she felt like she couldn't endure treatment much longer. She said my box encouraged her to keep going and that it was like I had sent her a box full of hope.
“That's how my ministry, Boxes of Hope, was born.
“I mail care packages in a signature pink box to anyone currently going through breast cancer treatments. I have sent over 50 care packages to 16 states so far. The neat thing is I have been blessed to develop friendships with some of the care package recipients because I never would have met them otherwise.
“I also sew fabric face masks, mastectomy pillows and mastectomy drain aprons that are free to breast cancer patients.
“When the pandemic hit, I started sewing fabric face masks for other people. So far I have sewed 945 masks since March 20th while working a full-time job.
“A good portion were given away free to health care workers or people with a compromised immune system.”
Donations can be made through PayPal.
“So many good things came out of my journey through cancer,” Traci says. “So many blessings.”