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Breast cancer survivor gains new perspective and learns to laugh again
Oct 13, 2015

Breast cancer survivor gains new perspective and learns to laugh again

Tiffany Olson will never think of New Year’s Eve quite the same way.  On Dec. 31, 2014, when her friends and family were preparing to welcome in a new year full of possibilities, Tiffany learned she had breast cancer.

“When my doctor gave me the news, I just stared at him,” she says. “Everyone who knows me knows I’m a talker. But in that moment, I was speechless.”

A week earlier, on Christmas Eve morning, Tiffany was getting into the shower when she felt a lump. The day after Christmas, she went in for an ultrasound, then an MRI a week later.

“When they did the MRI, three radiologists looked at the results and thought it was dense breast tissue, not cancer. So they didn’t think there was anything I needed to worry about.”

But the pathology report confirmed it was cancer and Tiffany, a 45-year-old wife and mother of two, was instantly scared.

“My best friend, Amy, died three years earlier of breast cancer. I was with her during her appointments and treatment, and all I could picture was what she went though,” Tiffany says.

Tiffany has a different type of cancer than her friend, but that didn’t make the news any easier to share with her children, 11-year-old Natalie and 10-year-old Bridger.

“It was hard. Fortunately, we have a really strong faith and I prayed a lot that God would give me the right words to comfort them,” Tiffany said. “Bridger slept on the floor in our room at night and he struggled when I lost my hair, but the more I prayed, the more I knew we were going to be OK.”

Tiffany and her husband, Rod, own a tax planning and preparation business in Coos Bay. Between handling the company payroll, shuttling the kids to and from school and activities, and serving on the board of United Way and the Education Task Force Committee for the Coos Bay Chamber of Commerce, Tiffany’s plate was already full. Cancer forced her to slow down.

TiffanyShortly after her diagnosis, Tiffany underwent a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. Most recently, she’s been staying with friends in Eugene to undergo daily radiation treatments at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute on weekdays.

“It’s really hard to ask for help,” Tiffany says. “I didn’t want to feel like I was burdening my friends, but what I’ve learned from their generosity is that friends and family want to help, and it’s important to let them.”

This week, Tiffany will receive her final dose of radiation—a momentous occasion that she will undoubtedly celebrate on her blog, which has become an important tool in keeping friends and family updated on her prognosis, as well as helping Tiffany process her own emotions. Blogging has also helped her put life in perspective and reflect on moments that make her laugh—like the time she and her husband were driving along Highway 101 and her wig flew out the car window.

“I was afraid cars were going to hit it!” Tiffany recalls. “I was yelling at my husband, ‘Get it, honey, before it gets run over!’ He said, ‘It looks like a dead possum, maybe they’ll just drive around it.’”

In the end, Tiffany got her wig back. She also has a newfound appreciation of how powerful humor can be in the healing process.

“Cancer sucks, but when you have those moments that are insane, you just have to laugh,” Tiffany says. “By sharing that, I feel like I’m helping others laugh, too.”

Tiffany’s cancer journey has also helped her take a closer look at her life and reevaluate what matters most.

“Going forward, I want to be more intentional about life. To enjoy the little moments more, set boundaries with work and focus more on family and our lives together. Life truly is about relationships. Despite what you’ve accomplished in your life, relationships are what’s most important.”