In May of 2016, I had only two concerns regarding my health. The first was that I needed to start training for the New York City Marathon. The second was wondering if I was fit enough to shimmy into last year’s bathing suit. I had planned a Memorial Day beach getaway.
During an average Wednesday morning, run-of-the-mill Pilates class something interesting happened. I rolled over onto my stomach and felt and odd sensation in my right breast. It was not painful, just…odd. As soon as I got home, I gave myself a breast exam and sure enough, there was a lump. I tried to be optimistic but something in my gut just knew. I needed to see a doctor right away.
Within 5 days I received the call. “Your biopsy results show that you have a malignant tumor. You need to see an Oncologist Surgeon….” A couple of days later came the diagnosis. I had Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Breast Cancer. The words just hung there.
I decided to go with a unilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, considered extremely successful by my surgeons. Chemotherapy was also recommended. I am currently (literally as I type this) in Round 6 of 16 treatments. My hair finally decided to abandon ship and I’m navigating all the emotions that come with the side effects.
The thing I keep as my guiding principle is that the prognosis is excellent. I have one of the most common types of breast cancer and this specific regimen has a proven efficacy rate that is staggering. By the New Year, I should be completely cancer free.
I received a great piece of advice from a 5-year survivor. “You can feel sorry for yourself and be a victim of cancer – or you can be a cancer survivor. You can let cancer define you – or you can tell the story about how one time, briefly, you had cancer.” I chose the latter.