Five lessons I learned from my brush with breast cancer


It was a normal day like any other day.  I had an appointment to see my gynecologist for a routine yearly exam.  She is always very gentle with the breast exam, we chat about this and that and usually before I know it the exam is over.  But not on this day.  As she is examining my breasts she pauses and says she wants me to get an ultrasound right away.  She said she felt a mass on my right breast!

The rest was a blur as I was immediately asked to go to the waiting area and wait for the ultrasound technician.  I had to wait 45 minutes for my turn.  It was 45 minutes on the clock but to me it felt like 45 years!  Of course nothing good ever comes to the mind.  My mind, as the effective machine it always is, was racing; busy with its new project of evaluating my life, my relationships, my accomplishments, my failures, my mistakes, my regrets! At the completion of the ultrasound I was handed a referral to a breast surgeon.  I knew I wasn’t done with living, but I knew I was scared.  No I was terrified!

My immediate family wasn’t close by and I didn’t want to bother anyone with my problem.  I can’t believe that was the first thought in my head-that I didn’t want to bother anyone!  To my utter surprise, my friends came to my rescue.  One of them even offered to come with me to the consultation appointment with the breast surgeon, because she said she knew I was scared!  My family flew out to be with me and even estranged family members came to visit.

The breast surgeon said she wanted to wait 6 weeks to see if the mass would get larger.  I only lasted 2 weeks before I went back in to see her begging her to remove it before I lost my mind.  That was the worst 2 weeks of my life as terror and depression became my loyal best friends, at my side every moment of the day and night.

On the day of the surgery, the surgeon was late.  As I lay there in the humiliating hospital gown and cap, the anesthesiologist started talking to me and for a few minutes we chatted about his plans to vacation in Italy.  It was just a conversation but it diverted my attention from feeling helpless to feeling hopeful.  Fortunately the mass was a complex cyst and was benign and I was the most grateful I had ever been for my health, for my life and for all my loving and supportive friends and family.

These are the five things I learned:

1)  Know that you are never alone and never be afraid to ask for help.  Your friends and family, estranged or not, love you more than you will ever truly know!

2)  See your doctor for annual breast exams.  Even after they showed me where the mass was, I couldn’t feel it!

3)  Know that you will go through a gamut of emotions that will take you by storm-so again ask for help and support!

4)  Forgive yourself and love yourself every moment of every single day!

5)  Know that your only job in this life is to live.  So live however you choose with no regrets!

Also know that this disease may affect anyone, be it your physician, your dentist, your neighbor, your teacher, your student, your friend, your wife, your daughter, your mother and the list goes on.  So give hugs, big juicy loving hugs, to all the women in your life, ALL the time and don’t forget to live fiercely every day!