Survivor since 2003

I was “lucky.”

The lump appeared in 2004. I was lucky that it was near the surface. I was lucky to catch it pretty early—the tumor was 2.5 cm long, or Stage II, but it hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes. I was lucky to have a supportive family and a lot of information about alternative and adjunctive therapies. I was also lucky to find a wonderful surgeon and a great oncologist, and to live near enough to the Shaw Regional Cancer Center that I could drive there for radiation treatments. So my story, luckily, is not as dramatic as many.

Here’s what l would suggest if you find a lump. Get it removed immediately, and have it biopsied outside your body. What I did, which I don’t recommend, was to have two needle-core biopsies before the lumpectomy. These were very invasive and may have accelerated the tumor’s growth; in addition, they delayed the surgery for a month. That was a month of strong emotions, to say the least.

My cancer was estrogen-receptor positive. That was good news, because now, by taking one small, expensive pill a day for five years, I can be reasonably sure my body won’t pump out estrogen to make a new tumor in the future.

So here’s my next suggestion: if you are post-menopausal, get off of HRT as quickly as you can. Don’t buy the argument that you can ingest bio-identical hormones for years. That’s what I was doing, blissfully ignorant of the consequences. With today’s American diet, most of us have too many hormones coursing through our bodies already. My oncologist believes that the accumulation of hormones is one of the main causes of breast cancer.

And here’s my last suggestion: if you find you have cancer, don’t keep it to yourself! Call people, make contacts, listen to advice, and ask for advice. I emailed a lot of friends and relatives, and their responses—phone calls, emails, visits, letters, prayers— played a huge part in my recovery. Their good will was unforgettably inspiring.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are glad to give it.

With all best wishes for your good health!

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