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'Some days it seemed like a bad dream' Hat party helped overcome depression


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Vicki Joslin says her dog, Mr. Magoo, seemed to sense her illness. The dog has been a great source of comfort since she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Vicki Joslin says her dog, Mr. Magoo, seemed to sense her illness. The dog has been a great source of comfort since she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Vicki Joslin poses for a photo with some of the hats she received from a hat party organized by a good friend who wanted to keep her spirits up during her battle with breast cancer.
Vicki Joslin poses for a photo with some of the hats she received from a hat party organized by a good friend who wanted to keep her spirits up during her battle with breast cancer.


When Vicki Joslin received her breast cancer diagnosis, she didn’t believe it.

Having always led an active, healthy lifestyle, the diagnosis didn’t make sense. There was no history of breast cancer in her family.

Joslin, who lives near Jonesville, initially thought that the small lump the doctors had found was nothing to worry about. She continued to tell herself it was probably benign.

The lump was discovered during a routine mammogram in December. Joslin was diagnosed Jan. 18 with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. This type begins in the milk ducts but spreads to surrounding tissue and can spread to other areas of the body.

On Feb. 8, she underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and affected tissue. Due to the aggressiveness of the cancer, Joslin began chemotherapy treatment in April.

Coming to terms with the illness has been difficult, she said. Having watched her sister-in-law battle breast cancer, she couldn’t accept that she now was battling the same disease.

For the first few weeks, all she did was cry. Then, she said, she just couldn’t cry anymore.

“Even now, some days it seems like a bad dream,” Joslin said. “And I think I’ll wake up tomorrow and things will be back to the way they were.”

She admitted there were days she wanted to just quit, but her husband, Tim, would talk her out of it. Without his understanding, Joslin said, she would already have given up. He accompanies her to all her doctor visits, and Joslin said she’s thankful for his never-ending support.

“After so much chemo you get chemo brain,” Joslin said. “It’s difficult to remember things. So that’s why he goes, to remember all the doctor says and to keep it all straight for me.”

The overwhelming feelings she initially felt have given way to determination. Joslin said she isn’t going to let the cancer stop her from living life and doing what she loves.

Having spent nearly 20 years as an independent landscaper, Joslin loved her job. She was immensely concerned about how her treatment would affect her ability to work. She made calls to her clients to let them know she was ill and even went so far as to tell them if they needed to find another landscaper she would understand.

“They were all so gracious,” Joslin said. “And they’ve all worked with me through this.”

With the exception of the week following her first chemotherapy session, Joslin continues to work the same hours she did before her diagnosis.

She said her illness understandably has affected her whole family. They realize life is short. Joslin said her 20-year-old son, Adam, doesn’t like to talk about it, but he does express concern.

“He asks how I’m doing and if there’s anything he can do for me,” Joslin said. “He wouldn’t have asked that before.”

Joslin’s 23-year-old daughter, Abby, said her mother’s diagnosis terrified her and forced her to see her mother in a different light.

“It’s your mom, she’s supposed to be impenetrable, strong. It’s allowed me to see Mom as much more human,” Abby Joslin said.

The roles in the Joslin household have reversed, and it’s now the kids taking care of mom. The trick has been getting their mom to realize it’s all right.

At the start, when Vicki Joslin received her diagnosis, the family felt immense impatience. Abby Joslin said she’s learned the journey through cancer is not a quick process.

“This is a big deal,” Abby Joslin said. “This is cancer with a big, capital C. But once chemo started, we were all much more comfortable. We weren’t waiting anymore. At that point, there was a plan of attack.”

Over the past few months, the family has become much more aware of their health than they were before.

To those children whose parent might be facing cancer, Abby Joslin said no matter how overwhelmed you might feel, never be afraid to ask questions.

Not only has the family adjusted and adapted, even Mr. Magoo, the family’s pug, knows something is not right.

“He’s my buddy,” Vicki Joslin said. “When I lay down, he comes in and lays down beside me. It’s like he knows I’m sick, it’s so strange how they know.”

Longtime friend Bonnie Hicks said she watched how depressed and angry Joslin became following her

diagnosis.

One day, Joslin read about how another cancer patient’s friends and family had thrown her a hat party. Hicks immediately responded, “I’ll throw you a hat party!”

Hicks and Abby Joslin held a “party of love” for the 50-year-old following her first two chemotherapy treatments. About 30 people attended.

“As she tried on the hats, she would explain how she knew the person who had given it to her,” Hicks said. “It completely changed her attitude. She really decided to make the best of the

situation.”

Joslin is looking forward to finishing treatment. She anticipates completing radiation by Thanksgiving and said she and her husband are planning a vacation to Michigan. For the time being, she concentrates on keeping her strength up and exercising as best she can.

“I went water skiing every weekend this summer,” Joslin said. “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to, but I did. I would like to start bike riding again and get out and walk more.”

Reflecting on what this journey has taught her, Joslin said she doesn’t let the little things get to her. Things she once thought were a big deal     now are trivial.

For example, Joslin said she never thought she’d go out in public without a hat since she’d lost her hair, but she does and said she doesn’t care what others might say.

Since the diagnosis, Joslin said she started paying more attention to breast cancer and she can’t get over the number of women who have or have had the disease.

Although she is appreciative of all the women who have shared their stories with her and offered support, Joslin admitted that she still struggles with accepting the fact that she has cancer.

She said she’s not the best person to ask about advice for others battling breast cancer.

“I never had the positive attitude everyone says you need; I have always had this anger that I even got this,” Joslin said. “Everyone needs to be aware that anyone can get this.”

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