Breast Cancer Survivor
The first week of August 2000, at the age of 44, I was diagnosed with what turned out to be stage 3 breast cancer. I stayed in denial from the moment I was advised by my gynecologist that even though he was sure it was nothing, I should have a mammogram for the lump I felt. I heard "it was nothing." I walked around with the scrip for the mammogram, just too busy to follow through with an appointment. After all, I was a single mother of two boys ages 12 and 14, and I did not have any time for such luxuries. Five months later, when I felt the lump growing and with the encouragement of my then boyfriend, I went and had my second mammogram since age 40. I got a call to come back in and get an ultrasound as it could be "serious." I still thought, no, not me. Even when I had the report in my hand and read "highly suspicious of malignancy," I was sure it was a mistake. When I saw the surgeon the very next day for a core needle biopsy, I chuckled and said "You don't really think this is cancer, do you?" And when he said "Yes, I absolutely do," I thought I should see another surgeon because this guy did not know what he was talking about. The lump was 7 cm. It was large, it was diffuse and it was ugly. And I had breast cancer.
A whirlwind of diagnostic and team consultative activity led to pre-operative chemotherapy followed by a mastectomy and lymph node removal, tram flap reconstruction, six more months of chemotherapy, 25 days of radiation, five years of Tamoxifen, sprinkled with neutropenia, infections, weight lifting studies, advocacy activism and more, resulting today in no evidence of disease.
I still remember the hats, wigs, ribbons, wristbands, pins, magnets, cards, letters, casseroles, odds, percentages, baskets, bears, journals, books, needles, drugs, rads, creams, herb teas and more as I celebrate 10 years to the first day when nothing became certain, everything became possible.