I don’t know whether or not my story is useful as I am not finished my treatment yet, but I am very sure I will be a survivor of breast cancer soon.
I am 39 years old and earlier this year I was feeling healthier than I had in a long time. I was, as always, eating a pretty healthy diet, exercising when I could, spending time with friends and enjoying a summer at home with my 5 year old daughter. I was looking forward to having a super summer and then returning to part-time work in the fall.
I had done a self-exam in June (although I didn’t do this on a regular basis). Then one warm night in July, I woke up around 3 a.m. My left hand was on my right breast and my fingers were right on top of a lump I’d never felt before. Imagine waking up from a deep sleep to find something so startling! I couldn’t get to my doctor fast enough. Of course he said it was probably nothing, but he sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram anyway. That was followed by a needle biopsy and then a full surgical biopsy. The terror I experienced during this time was completely numbing. I knew that I was probably in trouble and all I could think about was whether my little girl was going to have to grow up without her Mommy. By the time my doctor called with the bad news, I was so sick of being afraid that the diagnosis actually came as a bit of a relief. At least now I knew what I was up against: a 7 millimeter invasive ductal carcinoma.
The second-worst part of having breast cancer, after the initial terror, was telling our family and friends. My mom and sister completely fell apart for a while. My husband was great though; he never wept or raged or was anything other than supportive and positive. My friends rallied round and within days they were making a months’ worth of frozen dinners for us, and they all participated in the Run for the Cure in our city. I always knew my friends were the kind who could rise to a challenge but their generosity and love is indescribable.
I am now nearly recovered from a second surgery to remove more breast tissue and lymph nodes, which thankfully were clear. Now I am getting ready to start radiation treatments and hormone therapy. I am also beginning what will be a long process of looking at my life and making changes to help ensure my continued good health.
You see, I had been living a healthy life but obviously it wasn’t healthy enough. My body was trying to tell me something that summer night when I woke up feeling the lump. Why else would I find it that way? Now I have to figure out what the message is. I have started switching to organic food, have stepped up my vitamin consumption, cut back on work, and am thinking of trying meditation or counseling. I don’t for a moment believe that my illness was strictly from physical causes. Something emotional/spiritual has been out of balance too — and I have to uncover what it is.
Healing will take a long time, and I still need to find ways to deal with the fear and the anger. But I feel confident that with time I will work it all out. And I want to tell others with breast cancer that it’s a bumpy road but you can move forward and boy does it feel good when that happens! And the more we speak out about this disease, the more we share our stories and feelings and support, the further forward we will all move.
Thanks for listening,