How did you first find out you had cancer?
Just a routine mammogram was how I found out I had cancer. The tech came back in and said the doctor wants to see you. She suggested I see a surgeon ASAP because she and the radiologist thought it clearly looked liked breast cancer. The next day the surgeon took a textbook out and went to a picture of a breast cancer mammogram and placed it next to my mammogram and they were almost identical. No need for a biopsy or second opinion!
How did you react when you heard the news?
I was shocked when I found out I had breast cancer. I had a mammogram the year before that was clear and I felt fit and healthy.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had two friends who went through breast cancer so I knew a bit of what was involved, so I chose to have breast conservation with a lumpectomy. Because my surgeon didn’t get clear margins, I had to have a second lumpectomy a week after the first. It happens! The rest of my treatments were six treatments of chemotherapy three weeks apart, followed by seven weeks of daily radiation treatments.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
What surprised me the most about my treatments was how sick they made me. I was thrown into menopause and all those side effects, like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and weight gain, happened all at once rather than over a few years, compounded with the side effects from the chemo and radiation of fatigue and nausea. I was a mess, but I knew that the alternative was worse!
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Advice to a recently diagnosed woman would be to become your own health advocate. Do not react immediately. Look at the recovery of surgeries elected and their side effects. Read and talk with breast cancer social workers at the hospital or with a support group. Knowledge is power and the final choices are yours in how you will treat your cancer. Do not listen to the naysayers.
How long have you been cancer free?
I have just celebrated 10 years of cancer free!
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
My cancer experience gave me a wake-up call to my own mortality and what I wanted to do with my life. I chose to leave my corporate career and start my own business making wicking sleepwear for women like myself who sleep a bit too hot! Because breast cancer had such a profound impact on my life, I want to give back by my job in helping women get a better night’s sleep and giving a percentage of every sale to breast cancer research. Our website can be found here.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
One message I would give regarding breast cancer is to get a mammogram yearly starting at age 40. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, age 35. If you have very dense breast, speak with your MD about the age you should start getting your mammogram.
Haralee Weintraub worked in the pharmaceutical industry and, after her ordeals with uncomfortable sleep during her cancer-spawned, early onset menopause, used the best practices in her field to build her own company. Night sweats were impacting her quality of life. She knew about wicking clothing from the slopes and the trails but could not find anything comfortable and wicking for sleep. She fashioned a night shirt out of bike shorts and it worked. She showed her designs to her breast cancer support group and they went wild with enthusiasm. Cool Garments for Hot Women was born!
All of Haralee’s products are made in the USA and they give a percentage of every sale to breast research.
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