How did you first find out you had cancer?
I found a lump during a breast self-exam in 1995 and I asked my husband for advice. At the time, I didn’t think it was anything—there was no history of breast cancer in my family—but my husband said that I should get checked out just to be sure. Then my doctor ordered a biopsy.
How did you react when you heard the news?
My husband insisted on attending the appointment with me, and that was a good thing. I felt like someone had hit me with a truck. I was 37 years old, and this was not a part of my plan. I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening, but I somehow pulled myself out of the fog and took action.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I received a lumpectomy, followed by aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
It’s certainly not like in the movies. I couldn’t believe how even small, simple tasks required major effort, like just getting up and sweeping the floor. It was such a shattering thing to have happen.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Stay vigilant, but once you find out that you have cancer, hit it with everything you have.
How long have you been cancer-free?
I am a 17-year survivor.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
You have to participate in your heath care. You have to be aware of small physical changes and you need to know your body. Self-exams are very important—that’s how I found my cancer.
I also learned that I got a lot of satisfaction working with other breast cancer survivors through the Komen South Florida Affiliate. I shared my own experience, and people were so grateful to see how you can get through a cancer diagnosis with your life intact.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
You’ll really learn what your priorities are. I learned what was important and that my family was the only thing that mattered.
Judith Kolich is a breast cancer survivor of 17 years. Judith works hard to connect with other survivors and give them opportunities to share their stories. She has three daughters. Judith was a 2012 Warrior in Pink at the Komen South Florida Affiliate.
More from GEM