It was just over a year ago that Lindsay Vanderveen learned she had breast cancer. She was 28 years old.
Her youth not only surprised her, but also her doctors. She was usually the youngest cancer patient in the waiting room. After the discovery of a lump, multiple tests, an incisional biopsy, a growth the size of a lime was removed. Her doctor told her it had taken seven years to get that size. “That meant it had started growing when I was 21,” she said. “I had never had any symptoms.”
More than 40 people gathered to hear her story of survival and courage in Heidelberg’s Campus Center on Tuesday as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout her talk, Lindsay, a 2004 Heidelberg alumna, always came back to her family. “I was not going to be negative,” she said. “I vowed to never let my kids see me upset.”
The mother of two knew Stage II breast cancer would put a strain on the family. Lindsay received treatment at the Stefanie Spielman Breast Cancer Center at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Center in Columbus. The frequent trips plus the effects of treatment left her tired. “The hardest part was the fatigue,” she said. “I’ve always been an on-the-go type person and it was hard to not have the energy to read my kids a book at the end of the day.”
Throughout the doctor’s visits, surgeries, chemotherapy and the physical toll on her body, Lindsay has remained a strong role model for her two children. “I want to be a mom to them no matter what,” she said. “I know I have to be there for them.”
Her family is there for her, too. When she started losing her hair, she knew it was going to be hard. Her husband of eight years, Shane, said, “As long as you’re bald, I’m bald.” They shaved their heads together that night. Her daughter, Ellie, is growing out her hair with plans to donate it to Locks of Love. She is only an inch away.
Lindsay was adamant about women getting routine check-ups. “Exams saved my life,” she said. “Not knowing is scarier than knowing.” Jan. 14, 2013, will be her last chemotherapy treatment. It’s her son Blaise’s second birthday.
There is a 70-80 percent chance of her cancer coming back, but Lindsay is determined to fight for every day she has. She’d go through anything that “gives me more time with my kids.”