Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I had my annual routine mammogram in November 2000. I was told, after the mammogram and ultrasound as well as an exam by the radiologist, that I had a lump in my right breast. She asked when I first noticed it. I didn’t. I was never able to find the lump on my own. Without that mammogram, my cancer would have gone undetected. I underwent a lumpectomy on Dec. 4, 2000 and when I came out of surgery, I was told that of the two growths – the larger one was malignant.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was okay. My Mom was a long time breast cancer survivor, so at first, I didn’t really panic. When I called her that evening to tell her the news, she calmly said, “You’ll be fine.” I believed her.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
After the lumpectomy, I had Sentinel node surgery (all 6 nodes were benign) and then, I underwent radiation treatments concurrently with taking Tamoxifen since my cancer was estrogen positive.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
The radiation was tough. I went through weeks of extreme fatigue and then, the burn! That was awful. It was far worse than any sunburn I had ever had. My skin was raw, blistered, red, tender — the pain was so horrible that I recall the day I ran to the bathroom at work, ripped off my bra and didn’t wear one again for a long time. Any clothing at the time was uncomfortable.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
First, remain very positive. I strongly believe that most people will have a good outcome. Also, maintain a sense of humor. Seriously, you need to be able to laugh despite what you’re going through. Humor is a very powerful healing tool. Use it to your benefit.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I just had my PET Scan on Oct. 6. It has been since the summer of 2005 when the cancer last reared its ugly self. So, I’m at nine years maintaining a cancer free status.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I truly appreciate life to the fullest. I now enjoy every single day and when an opportunity comes along to celebrate (no matter what the reason) I am right there having a great time! I don’t think about the negatives — and I try my best to avoid thinking about anything other than a positive outcome. For instance, when I do go in for any testing, I already plan to hear “good news!”
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
If you are a cancer survivor, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. Facing this was the scariest moment in my life (even though I tried to ignore that fact for a long time) and as for being a Mom, I now know that I have done a great job. My son and daughter (both adults) have shared with me the fact that I have done a wonderful job raising them and that they both love me. I never have to doubt, for a moment, that I did a “good enough” job raising my kids. Now, I look forward to the day I become a grandparent.
Marilyn Wattman-Feldman is a long-time breast cancer survivor who has learned to enjoy life to the fullest. She lives just outside Orlando, FL and exercises on a regular basis. She has two grown children, a son who lives in Washington, D.C. and a married daughter living in Central Florida. She earned a BA in Journalism from Temple University and during her career has been a writer and editor as well as a public relations specialist. Now, Marilyn enjoys using her skills as volunteer at the Oviedo Y, American Cancer Society (RFL and MSABC) and the American Diabetes Association (Step Out for Diabetes). She has written a book titled: High Maintenance — Surviving Cancer at All Costs. She is busy working on its eventual publication.