Survivor since 1999
My experience with breast cancer was one of the worst yet one of the best times IN my life. The day after my biopsy in Denver, I was busying myself around home but completely preoccupied with waiting for the call. When it came and I heard the news, life changed instantly. I had cancer – the feared yet impossible had happened! My breath was knocked out of me.
The worst part was getting the diagnosis and choosing the right treatment. How bad is it? How extensive is it? Should I have the breast removed? How about chemo? Some suggested I should have both breasts removed, just to be safe. Others said a simple lumpectomy plus radiation would be plenty. From one extreme to the other. I expected that a doctor would TELL me what to do, but the research and the choices were up to ME. Life became less confusing when I accepted that I had to be the general contractor for the doctor, the diagnostician, the surgeon, the medical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist. In the end we made the right choice, and I found excellent medical support in Denver. Eight years after my diagnosis, I am clear of cancer.
The best part of the experience was the love and support I received from my family, friends and breast cancer sufferers all over the world who somehow found out about my situation and called and emailed their support. These women were the wisest source of information and support. As a friend here said, ‘You’ve now joined our sorority!’. My husband and son were with me every step of the way, hugging me, listening to me, driving with me to Denver – what a difference they both made to me.
The most valuable part was the chance it gave me to stop, think and take stock of my life and how I was living it. I read several great books given to me by family and friends. And I wrote in my journal every day, stream-of-consciousness jottings leading to realizations about changes I needed to make and lessons I wanted to learn. Within a month I was feeling more awake and alive than I had in years. A spontaneous joy erupted long before we knew the positive results of my surgery. The combination of love and contemplation had already begun my healing – regardless of what medical outcome awaited me. The gift that remains today is the wisdom that my life is a gift to be treasured each moment. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
As I lay on the table in Denver, having the pre-op sentinel node biopsy, the nurse said, “Please tell everyone not to be afraid of cancer. We’re here to help, and we have state-of-the-art support. If we can catch it early enough, you’ll all be fine.” She’s right. My cancer was caught early because I forced myself every year to have a mammogram. Yet every time I had to push myself to make the appointment. Part of me never wanted to know, didn’t want to face it. Just do it!