Story of Courage: Barb Miller
About a month ago, I was having dinner with some of my Survivor Breast Cancer girlfriend’s and one woman said, you’re the Barb Miller in Joan Lunden’s Book!" My response, "what book and what are you talking about." She quoted a few things I wrote, I got a little spooked- I never told anyone that I sent a FB message to Joan Lunden. So, I went to Barnes and Noble and got Joan’s book called “Had I known” – I paused as I read what I wrote—Wow, felt like a life time ago. It was Oct 2014 the night before I went to my surgeon to find out what type of surgery and treatment were ahead of me- I didn’t know a thing at the time and I was numb, just sipping a glass of wine and very nervous. I sat down after reading a few things that Joan Lunden had shared with the public, her People Magazine cover hit me the most. I never told anyone I was petrified actually but I knew Joan would get it, so I wrote her a little note on Facebook and forgot about it because my life was a whirlwind after that night. Two years later I find out Joan had put my message in her book- I felt heard, not alone, knowing so many women all over the world have read her book. I felt amazed truly. The next day, I reached out to Joan on Facebook and said Hi, I am the Barb Miller you mentioned in your book I am doing great. I never expected to hear back, but the next day Joan responded, and here I am, writing my story for her to put on her Website- very surreal and pretty cool!!!
This is what I wrote in my message to Joan, I thought this would be a great way to start my story---My name is Barb Miller, at the time I wrote this I was 50 years old, and thank God, I will be 53 on Nov 2, 2016 and my 2 year Survivor date is Nov 13, 2016. I told her that I lived in Belmar, NJ, alone with no family and on Sept 23, 2014 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I wrote how I read her story and I wanted to wish her well on her journey. I explained that I found out when I was sitting in my car, the nurse called me and told me I had Breast Cancer and I had to come in that Monday for an MRI since the Biopsy I just took came back showing I had Cancer. I had the MRI and that next day I was going to find out what my story was. I wrote how I agreed with her, how it all happens so fast and I prayed that I would have the strength to do what I had to do. I thanked her for sharing her journey.
My story continued for the next year and a half. The next day, I heard from my surgeon that I was going to need a double mastectomy due to my family history and my own diagnosis. I would probably need chemotherapy, and a few more operations, but I probably wouldn't need radiation. I was pretty numb actually and I went into survival mode for a while, yes I was scared, angry, mad, but I had faith and I had a lot of friends who loved me, held me up, and never let me go through any of it alone! I missed my Mom dearly, but was very blessed to be held up -it all happened so quickly- my dear friends helped care for me the first 2 week after my surgery, walking my dog and just loving on me- I was never alone- I couldn’t have done it without them. I am forever grateful and blessed.
After my double mastectomy on Nov 13, 2014, I started Chemotherapy for the next 4 months on Dec 31, 2014- yes, I lost my hair- it was pretty devastating but I let that go, because of all the things I was going through, my hair was one thing I could control not getting upset over, so I embraced being bald. I bought a wig I couldn’t afford and never wore it but found my love of bandanas, cool hats, and scarves. They made me feel whole again till my hair grew back. I was blessed that at each chemo session, I had one of my dear girlfriends with me, keeping me distracted as I got my infusions and made the hours pass by quickly, helping to get me home safe until my next session 3 weeks later. I celebrated my last chemotherapy treatment and have never looked back.
I had my reconstruction surgery in April 2015, that didn’t take so well. I waited a while to heal. In June 2015, I had a full hysterectomy- that knocked the hell out of my body. I took the summer to let my body, mind, and soul heal. I joined a few Breast Cancer groups and a cancer sponsored fitness programs to get back on my feet physically. One very special place I was blessed to go during my healing was Mary’s Place by the Sea in Ocean Grove, NJ, a place for women to go and heal on their Journey with any type of cancer! Michelle and Maria just built new home for women, a place to heal, mind, body and soul.
As my hair slowly started to grow back I was blessed with an angel who made me feel good when I felt sad, we had some fun together on my journey- a little pudding, a little Pink, a little purple here and there, making me feel whole again. Today, almost 2 years later I have chemo curly hair I love my journey with Elaine at Salon by the Sea.
January 2016 I had my final reconstruction, again, it didn’t take. My doctor said one horrible thing to me, "Your alive- let it go!" Let’s just say, along this journey we take the good with the bad, I am done with that doctor and when I am up on my feet financially, I will revisit breast reconstruction again. As a single woman in her early 50’s, these words are not what you want to hear from your plastic surgeon.
Overall, I was blessed with all of my amazing doctors who were apart of saving my life. I will be connected with them for the rest of my life, including twice a year for a body check and blood work to make sure I stay clean and cancer free!!! I am positive for Check 2 and Estrogen positive, I am at risk for Breast Cancer somewhere else in my body and Colon Cancer I will stay up to date with everything and keep up with my protocols.
What I want to tell everyone is the most important thing I learned on my journey. I am here today because of all the love that was instilled in me as a child from my Mom in heaven and because of all of the people around me…LOVE WON in more ways than one!!! I am forever grateful and blessed each and every day.
Today, a 2 year survivor, I am happy and healthy, back to working part- time for the last 6 months, walking through new doors, praying to find a job I can call home, enjoying life and my moments each and everyday with my dog Lucy by my side every step of the way!
My wish is to pay it forward, whether it’s speaking privately/publically with women on their journey, walking with The American Cancer Society , being a member of Belmar Care helping women in my own Community or writing my own Book! Before I leave this world, I will make a difference.