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A young mother’s breast cancer story

Chelsa with her family at Lapper 2010

by Amber Recker

In 2010, when she was just 34 years old, Chelsa Demarchis heard four words she thought she’d never hear: You have breast cancer. At the time, her two boys were still babies, 2 years and 4 months old.

“I was nursing my youngest and we started having a difficult time,” Chelsa says. “I thought it was a blocked duct; so did my doctor at first.”

Chelsa had an ultrasound right away and then the whirlwind began. The doctor asked her to come back for a mammogram after the ultrasound and that’s when they discovered she had stage 3 breast cancer. She was having a hard time breast feeding because the tumor was a massive 6 centimeters. She started chemotherapy immediately and in early 2011, she had a mastectomy, followed by radiation treatment.

“I was completely blind-sided,” explains Chelsa. “Never in a million years did I expect this to happen to me and my family.”

Chelsa’s husband Dan took the news especially hard. He experienced an array of emotions, but mostly anger. “It took a lot of convincing on my part and from our family and friends before Dan believed I would be okay. He was so angry this would happen to me at such a young age with such young children,” Chelsa says.

Once the initial shock wore off, Chelsa, Dan and their family faced cancer head on. Dan’s parents moved to Fort Wayne to help with the children while Chelsa underwent treatment, and her mother and 3 sisters from Michigan took turns coming down to help, as well.

“We were shown incredible support from our family and friends,” Chelsa says. “My husband is a teacher at Canterbury, and that community was amazing. People prepared meals and brought them to us every night. They even showed up to watch the boys so we could enjoy some down time.”

Chelsa and Dan were open with their oldest son during the process and tried to explain it to him so he would understand. They told him cancer was like alien bugs attacking mommy’s body and the medicine she took attacked the bugs back. They also told him the medicine made her hair fall out.

“It was a big deal to me when I started losing my hair. I had thick, long curly hair. The night Dan helped me shave my head, our son walked in. I asked him if I looked pretty and he said ‘not today mommy,’” Chelsa relays, laughing at the memory. “It was an emotional moment, and he put a smile back on our faces.”

Last year, Chelsa organized a team of her family and friends to participate in Lapper. “It relieved a lot of stress knowing that Cancer Services was there for me during my cancer journey. When I needed questions answered, I simply had to call my Client Advocate. Just knowing that was enough sometimes,” she explains. “So participating in Lapper was a great way to help support the organization and also do something with my family and friends to acknowledge what we all went through with my diagnosis. I love the community feel of the event and can’t wait to participate in Lapper 2012.”

Today, Chelsa has reached the 6 month post-treatment mark and things look good. “You know, my son saved my life,” she says. “If we hadn’t found the tumor when we did, it may have been too late.”

If you’d like to join Chelsa and others at Lapper 2012, register today!