Chealsea was 39 years old when the struggle to smile began. With incredible precision, Chealsea’s surgeon found five small tumors in her lymph nodes. In June of 2018 Chealsea was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. In reference to chemotherapy, she describes with great illustration: “it drags you emotionally to the depths of hell”.
To anyone recently diagnosed Chealsea describes the effect of chemotherapy, saying “chemo is going to affect you differently – chemo is very emotional”. Reflecting on her treatment, she said “I lost a boob, I went through radiation, chemo, I looked like cooked bacon for a while…woke up crying every morning from the pain…but that’s physical, that’s just the body…get ready for bootcamp on your body.”
Chealsea is forever grateful for the support her friends and family provided throughout her journey. Chealsea values the importance of positive support systems.
“If you have a good support system that keeps you happy…I never got sick in the way everyone said I would because I was kept emotionally happy”. Chealsea can’t stress enough, the importance of an environment that fosters love.
When asked about her greatest accomplishment throughout her cancer journey, Chealsea responded “I didn’t let it destroy or make me weak in any way. Mind, heart, body, and soul—I made it all the way through a happier woman.” Chealsea learned many valuable lessons as she battled cancer. As a veteran, Chealsea was able to get more help than she thought she would.
“The Portland VA scooped me up and took good care of me” she said. “There are veteran programs out there, even for those discharged…there are programs available for veterans–just go to your local VA services and they’ll get a social worker from the VA and it starts right there.”
With genuine gratitude dripping from every word, Chealsea said “that was the saving grace for me.” Chealsea advises veterans and/or civilians to reach out for help. In reference to Komen’s Treatment Access Program, Chealsea said “I reached out to the Komen foundation and they sent me gas cards. “You have to be willing to reach out…some people are afraid to ask for help.” As Chealsea points out, we must be patient with ourselves, endure change, count our blessings, and find a reason to smile every day.