BILLINGS — One year ago a very brave 39-year-old Billings woman was at the St. Vincent Healthcare Cancer Centers of Montana getting chemo. Today, Stacey Schumer’s breast cancer is gone, but so are a lot of the things that made her her. However, she’s still a warrior with battle wounds to show and a message to share.
“My purpose in this is being able to tell other women right, go, get checked. It doesn't discriminate whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50,” Schumer said.
Breast cancer took a lot of things from Schumer.
“This is my identity as a woman, my hair, my breasts, my nails. It stripped me back, literal layers of a woman,” says Schumer.
From the moment of diagnosis, Schumer knew her purpose: publicly sharing exactly how scary breast cancer is so mammograms aren’t missed.
“Every single day it felt like it was something else,” says Schumer’s husband Chas Buchanan. “We ended up in the hospital a lot, and you can’t help thinking she’s going to die.”
Buchanan was there in person and on social media witnessing the unthinkable.
“It was so traumatic finding out. I'm a mother of 5, I’m a wife,” says Schumer. "I had six rounds of chemotherapy. That is hardcore and I struggled with that really badly. We got every single side effect, even to my nails lifting and rotting. It was absolutely horrifying.”
Compared to chemo, she says her double mastectomy was a breeze.
“Chas was standing with me in the bathroom,” remembers Schumer. “Here we go, we’re going to look. We’re going to see, and I dropped my robe and looked at myself, and in those moments I realized what a warrior and how incredible I was just to be sitting here.”
But then came radiation, literally burning off layers of skin, making sure every last bit of cancer was gone.
“The burning of radiation doesn’t start until you are done,” says Schumer. “It would scab, it would seep, it was horrible. Nobody talks about this. I had no idea.”
She's shared her entire journey via Facebook live, but some days are still harder than others.
“I grieve my old self a lot,” says Schumer.
Estrogen-fed cancer is forcing her into early menopause with side effects like depression.
“My body is still changing,” says Schumer. “Now that I have these hot flashes and I've had them for a year, I say it just makes me rage.”
“For the significant others that are going through this, be patient, learn to compromise and say okay,” says Buchanan.
“My husband is the strongest man I know,” says Schumer.
The next step: reconstructive surgery in October, a PINK concert, her 41st birthday and making sure you get a mammogram.
“You’ve got to go. Why not?” says Schumer.