When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2001, I was 33 years old. I was going through a series of fertility tests in hope that I would get pregnant by the following year. This was my only focus.
In fact, when my doctor found the lump in my right breast, it was treated as nothing to be worried about. After all, I was young, in good health, with absolutely no family history of cancer of any sort. When it came time for the precautionary sonogram, the radiologist even gave me a choice; wait and see if the lump would manifest itself into someone more, or simply remove it for “cosmetic” reasons. Again, nothing to worry about, or at least I thought.
The decision to remove the lump was simple. I hadn’t even given it much thought since I was on my first round of fertility drugs. This lump was in my way. My focus was clear, this lump was a nuisance and nothing more.
When I got the call from my doctor after the biopsy, it was a strange feeling. High grade infiltrative carcinoma? What’s that? And how do I get rid of it? I think I treated it more like a rash than cancer. In fact, I’m not sure if I really understood the depth of what I had just been told. I didn’t realize how this was going to effect the next year of my life and I certainly didn’t believe that this could kill me. I’m not sure if I was being naive or just upset that this was ruining my baby plans.
Now decisions had to be made. In light of the circumstances, I chose a full mastectomy on my right breast and also on my left. With the fertility drugs that I would have to take to try and get pregnant again, when my treatment was over and the cancer drug Tamoxifen that would need to be taken for 5 years afterwards, the path I needed to take was clear. Remove all breast tissue and reduce the chance of a reoccurance and increase the chance of getting my life back. A hard decision? Not really. Not when you’re focus is clear. Save a life to make a life.
I finished with chemotherapy six months ago. I’m getting my hair back and frankly I kind of like it short and sassy. I had my second stage reconstruction three days ago and I’m up and around, typing emails with a bag of frozen peas taped to my chest. I’m even using the time off to look at magazines trying to get ideas on how to decorate a nursery. I’m thinking bunnies…yes, I think I like bunnies.
To me this disease was a nuisance and nothing more. It was simply an interruption to a life filled with endless possibilities that including my own family. My advice is to find a focus and live for that. Do whatever it takes to get there. We owe ourselves that.