In 2005, Lake Travis resident Elisa Graves was over-the-moon about her beautiful five-month-old daughter when she got the devastating news that she had breast cancer. It was Stage IIA Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer.
Elisa vividly remembers the sheer disbelief …
“I was in my 30’s, with my precious daughter, loving life more than ever because my dreams of being a mom had finally come true after the loss of three second trimester babies — our precious gift from God was more amazing than I could have ever imagined,” Elisa recalls.
“Aside from new mommy fatigue, I felt great!”
“There was no way I was sick. This has to be a mistake.”
As the reality of her cancer diagnosis slowly sunk in, within five days of receiving the news from her doctor Elisa began her treatment journey with her head held high.
“I’m a positive person by nature and believe that a positive attitude is a tremendous gift given my life’s journeys,” Elisa explains. “I knew that I had to take this one day at a time and not worry about tomorrow.”
The mindset of a survivor
Elisa’s strength was tested.
She remembers crying when she realized she would lose her hair as a result of the chemotherapy. Instead of watching it fall out slowly, Elisa shaved her head.
For the next six months she underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy.
Surgery confirmed she was cancer free in April of 2006. Instead of radiation, Elisa chose to have a unilateral mastectomy. From her perspective, “the choice was a blessing,” because it had nothing to do with body image, but everything to do with survival.
Fast forward to 2014, when Elisa’s strength is tested yet again.
After nine years of living cancer free and enjoying every moment with her gorgeous daughter Michaela, Elisa got the heartbreaking news that her cancer has returned. In fact, it never fully left.
An elusive cell
It was an incredibly rare situation where a microscopic cancer cell eluded her doctors the first time and sat dormant in her body for nine years.
The good news was the cancer was contained.
The bad news?
Elisa must endure eight more rounds of chemotherapy and countless surgeries, not to mention she was now a single mother who was raising Michaela on her own.
The Lake Travis community rallies
This time around, Elisa’s top priority was not only survival, but also protecting and supporting Michaela — who was now in fourth grade — throughout the grueling two-year long treatment process.
Thanks to the Lake Travis community, Elisa and Michaela did not face this battle alone.
Friends stayed the night in the hospital with Elisa after her invasive surgeries. Lakeway Elementary school went above and beyond to support Michaela. Friends created a Go Fund Me account to help Elisa with her expenses and medical bills. Friends sat with her during treatment and brought her Starbucks when she needed a pick-me-up.
On a personal note, I’ve known Elisa for years and even if she was feeling defeated and miserable, you would’ve never known.
Elisa powered through her cancer treatments with grace and strength. In private, she may have admitted that chemo was taking a toll on her physically, but her bravery and beautiful smile never faltered.
Today, Elisa is cancer-free! She sees her oncologist routinely and will be on certain medications for the rest of her life, but her dark days living under the shadow of breast cancer are over.
In her words
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Elisa has advice for every woman.
“Cancer does not discriminate by age or education or anything you might think protects you from it,” she explains.
“You cannot live in fear, so self-checks and regular mammograms, even ultrasounds, for those with dense breast tissue should not be missed. You have to be your own advocate and your family’s best advocate too.”
Editor’s Note: Elisa wants to give a big heartfelt “thank you” to all of the people who have supported her and Michaela throughout the years. “There are just too many amazing and generous people in the LT community to name them all!”