How did you first find out you had cancer?
I had a lump that my primary doctor, at the time, brushed off as just fibrocystic when I was 39. A year later, he sent me to get a baseline mammo – even though I had had one when I was 35 since my mother was a breast cancer survivor. Again, he brushed me off, telling me that breasts tissue is too dense at age 35 and that is why baselines should start at age 40. A few months later, I changed my primary doc. I was diagnosed again almost 2 years later, also after feeling a lump.
How did you react when you heard the news?
Shocked, sad and scared the first time. I had lived (and still do) a healthy lifestyle eating mostly vegan and exercising daily. I was not overweight.
The 2nd diagnosis was also surprising but not as shocking or scary since I knew what to expect and I had met many other survivors who were thriving.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
Mastectomy and reconstruction the first time. The 2nd time was another mastectomy and destruction of the implant on the first side. Then chemo.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
The mastectomy scars were not as scary looking as I anticipated. I also had an amazing surgeon who left only a thin line for scars.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Take a deep breath and remember to keep breathing. Then find things that make you laugh. Humor is VERY healing. Then get the book (or get someone to buy it for you) “Uplift” by Barbara Delinsky. It’s like having a support group of survivors in a book.
How long have you been cancer free?
10 years – YAHOOOOOO!!!!
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Most things are not worth stressing about. Find things that make you happy – or at least not stressed.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Get a baseline mammogram AND know your breasts – or have your partner know your breasts – to feel for lumps. There is no perfect way to detect cancer but feeling for lumps AND getting at least a baseline mammogram can ultimately save your life. Many women fear the radiation in mammograms or fear hearing the news that they have cancer. The truth is that nowadays, the amount of radiation in mammograms is lower than the radiation a person is exposed to on a cross country airplane flight. And hearing you have cancer IS scary but EARLY detection saves lives. Better to get diagnosed early and live a long life than to ignore all signs and be dead….unless you want to be dead. Dying of cancer can be a long and painful way to go.
Amy is a professional collage artist. Most of the last 30 years, she has completed collage illustration for many trade and consumer magazines as well as book covers and ads. Almost 9 years ago, she adopted a foster daughter who has been the primary focus of her life outside of art. When Amy is not in the studio, she cooks healthy food, knits, bikes, does some photography, sew or hike in the woods behind our house with my chocolate lab, Biskit.