I found out that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2007. I had put off having my routine age 50 colonoscopy for 5 years, and finally decided to go through with it. The colonoscopy turned out fine, but the doctor wrote an order for bloodwork based on some information that I gave him prior to the procedure. When the results came back, he called me immediately and told me that I needed to go to a Hematologist as soon as possible, due to an extremely low platelet count. That started the ball rolling toward my diagnosis of breast cancer found only in my liver.
2) What emotions did you have to work through upon this realization?
I wasn’t sure how to “feel”, who to tell, and what to change in my life. I really did not want to tell a lot of people because I did not want the cancer to become a distraction in my life, and we were still trying to figure out what was going to happen – what treatments, etc., I would need.
3) Did you have a lifestyle change going through this time?
I did not have too much of a lifestyle change, because I tried to ignore that it was happening. I had to make some time for tests and doctor visits, so that caused some minimal time away from work. Because my platelets were so low, I had low energy so that affected my level of activity. I could not do everything that I had been doing. I had to pick and choose events to attend and needed more rest. Because my liver was not functioning properly, I had to stop drinking alcoholic beverages and begin eating and drinking better and resting more.
4) When/How did you decide to get “Feisty” with the cancer?
Getting feisty with the cancer – I weighed my options when the doctor gave me the diagnosis, and decided that some things I could not control, but that I would take control over the things that were in my power. Those things included: my attitude about the present, my outlook for the future, and how I behaved during the time that I had left. The doctor told my husband and I that I might live a few years or a normal life span – they really did not know. I did not freak out (although my husband did). I felt that it would not help to panic, but that I would do what I could and hope for the best. I wanted to continue my lifestyle as long as I could, and deal what came my way in the most positive way that I could, knowing that things could get quite tough and my attitude may change along the way.
5) What made you continue to be feisty throughout the treatment?
Continuing to be feisty – I was very fortunate not to have to endure chemo or radiation, or even surgery right away. I did have to and continue to need to take a medication that eliminates estrogen from my body. That causes some significant and undesirable side effects in a woman’s body. I guess that was when I needed to “suck it up” and say I will do whatever I need to do to take care of myself. I am very blessed that so far I have not needed chemo or other harsh treatments, and that there was even a treatment that would work for me. I don’t really think of myself as being that feisty, under these circumstances, but just having the diagnosis of cancer and the uncertainty of your future, creates a certain strength in a person’s character.
6) What did you learn about yourself and others?
What did I learn about myself and others? I learned that I am not afraid to face my mortality. I learned that one should never give up hope. There are many new medical interventions and you should move forward in a positive way, looking for answers. I also learned that many people are supportive when you have a medical problem, especially something like breast cancer. Even people that you don’t know will be praying for you and offering support. Prayer and positive attitude, faith in one’s doctors and the medical system are all important to healing. Most other people will not remember the details of your disease, but they will remember that you have cancer and continue to be supportive.
7) What do you want to pass on to other women who are going through it?
Once you are diagnosed, you become a member of an exclusive club. Do something positive with it. Share your experience in an effort to pass on the knowledge and support that you have received from others.
8) What “motto” or exercise can you pass on for women to continue to be feisty with breast cancer?
Take control of your life and your body. Do everything you can to avoid cancer – eat right, avoid things that increase your risk factors, self-examine for lumps and abnormalities, get mammograms early and regularly, and become vigilant of signs of cancer. If you are diagnosed, accept support from others, especially those that are “members of the club.”