Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I went for my first ever mammogram at age 36 in May 2007. My GYN said “I like to have my patients have a baseline between 35-40.” It came back abnormal- which I was told by the tech to not be nervous about- many get called back b/c there is nothing to compare it to. After my call back mammogram the radiologist set me up with the hospital for a biopsy. It was June 13, 2007 that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
Immediately I jumped into logistics mode- called my husband at work (he came home), and talked to a close girlfriend who has family that are docs up at The Dana Farber/Brigham & Womens Hospital. I did not panic. It was clearly a “bitch slap”. My mortality had been thrown in my face. I was in “fight” mode from the moment the radiologist called at 1:15pm on June 13, 2007 and told me of my diagnosis.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I went to my first meeting with my breast surgeon up at “The Brigham” KNOWING I wanted a bilateral mastectomy. He gave me the lumpectomy discussion and I clearly remember sitting on the exam table and looking at him: “Dr. Golshan, you don’t know me or my personality. Let me just lay it out there for you. I want this out of me. I want the least amount of reason to worry about this happening in my right breast. Do a bilateral mastectomy. I don’t want to go for breast MRI’s/mammograms and worry every time what the result may be on the right side. GET RID OF THEM!”
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
That the physical recovery was the easy part. The mental and emotional recovery is still ongoing for me- 6 years later.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
It sounds so business like: buy a binder, buy tab dividers. You will be inundated with information and overwhelmed. Keep everything together in your binder. Write your questions down- bring a friend/family member to your doc appointments- their job is to write the answers down- hell, video the appointment. You can’t be expected to ask questions and remember the responses. Cancer taught me to ASK FOR HELP- I had no choice….I needed help through all this.
I also tell people who reach out to me: on the day of or night before your surgery stand in front of a mirror without your shirt or bra on- give yourself a hug and say goodbye. It may sound strange or dramatic- I never did that and wish I had. For me I felt like a FREAK with scars across my “mounds” and no nipples. It’s better after 6 years but I still don’t like looking in the mirror before/after a shower. I believe if I had said goodbye and grieved the loss of my breasts (not that they defined me…I looked like a 13 year old boy pretty much before cancer but they were a part of me for 36 years.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I was 6 years cancer free July 18, 2013!
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned how to ask for help as I said above. Being an only child I have always been rather independent and gotten things done myself. My husband traveled extensively when our girls (now 13, 12, 10) were very young- I juggled them and myself very well. With my cancer diagnosis I had no choice but to ask for loads of help. And guess what- the laundry may not have been folded exactly how I wanted it, but it was folded!
I am not good at it, but cancer also taught me to STOP! Every so often and just observe the beauty around me- it could be a spider web in between the spindles on our front porch or the rich red color of the fall leaves. When something really pisses me off I try to rewind (I’m not so good at this!) and think “Really, I’m getting so upset over what?” Some days that works better than others!
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Cancer may take body parts- cancer cannot take your spirit if you don’t let it.
Cancer is like a lion’s fight….let it hear your roar!
Married with 3 girls: Russ is my husband. My girls are Rielly- age 13,
Kacey- age 12, and Mallory- age 10. My family fuels me to feeling confident
that I will continue to beat cancer.
I am a competitive CrossFitter- CrossFit helps me feel ALIVE- when I set a
personal record (PR) on a lift or earn a decent time on a workout I feel
like cancer CANNOT attack me again.