Q & A on Her Journey to Recovery from Breast Cancer
Diagnosed with breast cancer on Leap Day in 2008, Mary Christine Hazelwood is a survivor. We talked with her about her journey—chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and what led her to start The Pampering Event for women with breast cancer.
Central Florida Health News (CFHN): Tell us about your diagnosis with breast cancer and what you did to treat it.
Chris Hazelwood: It was classified as invasive ductal carcinoma stage 3. No history of it in my family. We decided to go to Moffitt in Tampa for a second opinion. My husband Hap and I felt really good there so that is where we decided to have treatment.
The chemo treatments were not nice to me. After the first one, my white blood count took a nosedive and I spent Mother’s Day weekend in Moffitt’s Hospital. Not a good thing, especially if you were a florist. At the time I owned and operated a florist shop in Winter Haven.
Before my hair really started to come out, I visited my hairdresser, April. She knew just what to do: She scheduled me for her last appointment, covered the mirror with a sheet, and shaved my head, with my husband and daughter watching behind me. I put my wig on afterwards and we walked out. At home, I slowly pulled it off in the privacy of my bathroom, looked at my head and started to laugh! Yep, laugh. I looked just like my son Chad! Our other son, Kevin, shaved his head to be supportive of me. He wanted to, but I told him not to do it.
I went into anaphylactic shock when they started the drip of a different chemo drug. Then we had to fight the insurance company so they would okay a different drug. That took a month to sort out and my hair started to grow back.
Nausea wasn’t too bad with all the drugs I was on, except one time when I was in bed for a week. My daughter Keli came in and said put this on. It was a wristband that you wear when you are on a ship. It was like magic. I could not believe it. The nausea was gone. Instantly.
So after 11 treatments of chemo, a month of radiation treatments started. That was like a walk in the park after what I went through with chemo.
CFHN: How did you fight cancer mentally?
Hazelwood: I was in shock at first. I thought I was doing well health-wise. I drank green tea, exercised, my vitamin D level was fine, etc. After a while, I only allowed myself to cry once a day and get it out of the way. My mother had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in her 70s, so I thought if SHE could go through the chemo treatments, who am I to feel sorry for myself?
CFHN: What can you share with those diagnosed with breast cancer?
Hazelwood: Everyone’s cancer is different. Everyone’s body is different. Not any two are alike. Some people dance through chemo and some don’t. Some have trouble with radiation. Some have side effects for the rest of their lives.
CFHN: How did you cope?
Hazelwood: What kept me going? Besides God? My wonderful husband, family, and friends. Woman to Woman Support group. Receiving cards in the mail. One of my friends sent me a card every week. It was nice to look forward to. Keep your cards. Because trust me you will have chemo brain and forget who sent you cards. I’m glad I kept them. I still have them. Can I still claim chemo brain? Ha!
CFHN: Do you have any advice for those undergoing treatment?
Hazelwood: After a chemo treatment, drink tons of water to flush it from your body. I always felt better afterwards.
Play your cancer card. Your energy level is not what it used to be. As women, we think we can do it all. Stop it. Have someone clean your home. My kids who live out of town mailed me frozen cooked dinners that were a godsend. All we had to do was heat them.
Have your friends bring you knitted caps. Your bald head gets cold at night in bed. Most insurance will pay for one wig, but get lots of them. Have fun with them. Long red, Halloween ones, pink ones, etc. Your eyebrows can be stenciled on. Drug stores have them.
Contact your American Cancer Society. They have people who will drive you to your treatments. They also have “Look Good . . . Feel Better,” a one-day program where they teach you how to apply makeup and tie a scarf around your head.
Breast cancer drugs make you gain weight. Don’t worry—it all comes off. Buy cheap clothes, then give them to someone who needs them afterwards.
CFHN: Has surviving breast cancer changed your outlook?
Hazelwood: Yes. Every holiday is big. We try to make memories for the grandchildren. I don’t want them to remember us yelling at them for sitting on a good chair, etc. Yes, we have rules, but we also have fun. You realize things are not that important. I like to think of it as stress less; know you are blessed. I’m still working on the stress less part . . 🙂 We also try to eat better, exercise more, limit toxins in/outside of our body, get to bed at a decent hour, etc.
CFHN: Please tell us about The Pampering Event.
Hazelwood: The Pampering Event started when I was diagnosed. When some girlfriends started telling me they had it too, I realized they needed a day to be pampered. That’s when my friend Jessica D’Angelo from Estee Lauder, and Dan Eggelton, manager of Belk in Winter Haven, said to have an event there at Belk’s because there must be more women like them. It took no time to put together. The vendors were so caring and eager to help. We had no idea we would be doing this again and again. This event is to pamper, educate, and bring awareness of breast cancer to everyone. Some vendors include American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, Winter Haven Cassidy Center, Watson Clinic, Lake Wales Medical Center, Woman to Woman Support Group, Massage Therapists, A.T. Radiology, Curves Gym, Bond Clinic, and more.
We also have a Fall Fashion Show. All models are survivors, or they’re undergoing treatment. There are door prizes all day, cupcakes, punch and a few surprises this year. It’s a day to celebrate survivors, care for the sick, and remember the fallen.
CFHN: We understand you’ve started a new charity?
Hazelwood: Our non-profit HUB came to be when Lasater Flowers, (now run by our daughter-in-law, Keira, and son, Chad) moved. We had this big building and started thinking since we help people once a year with The Pampering Event, why not help them all year?
The building was just too big for just breast cancer. So, we thought why not open it to all non-profits? Rent desks, offices, community, and conference rooms? Advertise events with front windows? Hold classes, seminars, support groups in the community room? Meetings in the conference room? Rent desks for a year, month, week or even a day?
If you run your non-profit out of your home and don’t want to bring a client there, or maybe you’re getting too big for your home and can’t afford to rent a building, or live out of the county and want to make a presence in Polk, this could be the answer. We hope to have the HUB filled day and night real soon.