FORT HOOD — Marily Considine felt mutilated when doctors removed both of her breasts during a bilateral mastectomy.
“It was very traumatic. At first it was devastating to see your body that way,” said Considine, who’s in remission. “But it’s been two years, so I’ve kind of gotten used to the scars.”
The marks on her chest are an empowering reminder of surviving cancer and an experience she hopes she can use to inspire others.
Considine, a volunteer for Fort Hood USO and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, battled breast cancer in September 2010.
She was named Military Spouse of the Year for Fort Hood’s installation by Military Spouse magazine. She moved on to the all-Army competition and will compete against one candidate from each Army installations worldwide.
On Feb. 21, Considine will find out if she’ll move on to represent the Army against all other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Her sister, Jocelyn Kwon, nominated her and although Considine was hesitant to enter, once she realized it would give her the opportunity to share her experience with other Army spouses, she was thrilled.
“There’s not a prize or crown,” she said. “It’s more a platform; a chance for you to go to (Washington) D.C., and speak about your ideas for how to improve the lives of military spouses.”
Considine went to the doctor in April 2010 after experiencing chest pain. Doctors initially diagnosed her with a benign cyst, which they continued to monitor. About five months later, she returned to the doctor after noticing the cyst growing. The doctor ordered a biopsy and the results showed a fast-growing, aggressive cancer.
She was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer Sept. 17, 2010.
“There’s only four stages. This can’t be good,” Considine thought.
When she heard the word “cancer,” her mind immediately went to death. Feeling numb and defeated, she started sobbing. While she tuned out the doctor, her husband, Maj. John Considine, an engineer operations officer at III Corps, made sure to listen to the doctor’s every word.
“It was just shocking, knowing that I couldn’t really do anything,” he said.
The same day as her diagnosis, the couple drove to Austin to meet with a surgeon. Within a week, doctors conducted bone and blood scans and installed a chemotherapy port in her chest.
“I was at everything every step of the way, every chemo and radiation treatment,” John Considine said.
Some days, Marily Considine woke up thinking, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” But, John Considine’s attitude helped Marily make it through the painful chemotherapy treatments and wanting to sleep 20 hours a day.
“Even if I had negative thoughts in my head as far as what I thought was going to happen, I had to stay positive,” John Considine said. “If she was having a down day, I had to be a little more positive to help her through it.”
Support through treatments
With each chemotherapy treatment, Considine’s optimism grew.
Doctors told Considine she’d get excited when the fist-size lump protruding from her chest started to disappear. She laughed.
But, by the fourth of her eight treatments, the large mass shrank, which meant the medicine was working and worth the nausea and pain it caused.
As her hair began to fall out, Considine wore a scarf to cover what she considered a “lumpy head.” She refused to take a photo or be seen with a bald head until one day, John Considine asked, “What if I stand with you? Will you take a picture then?”
John Considine convinced her it was something she’d want as a reminder of the strength she maintained throughout her experience.
“It’s empowering,” Considine said of the photo. “Like, you’re not going to be like this forever.”
The Considines were amazed by their family and friends’ support and soldiers in John Considine’s unit, who brought dinner for the couple every time Considine had a treatment.
“During the whole time, we were blown away by how much people wanted to help,” she said. “It seemed like every time we would start to get down, somebody would come and do something nice for us. We really couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves because there were so many people helping us.”
With the platform of Military Spouse of the Year, Considine wants to turn her scars into inspirational stories to positively impact others going through similar situations.
“If I can make a difference and help people out with it, then maybe going through all that will be worth it,” she said.