Breast Cancer – One Woman’s Story
"I’m sorry," my surgeon said, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I’m afraid you have breast cancer." How could this possibly be happening me? I thought. I did not have a family history, I watched my diet and was very strict with regard to exercise. I was not the "typical" candidate for developing breast cancer and I was only 31 years young at the time. What a naive and arrogant attitude I had in retrospect. Anyone can get this disease! A breast self-exam literally saved my life. Five minutes of your time once a month, annual physical exams and mammograms have the potential to save your life, too. After all, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
I was extremely fortunate having caught the cancer in Stage I. My tumor was less than two centimeters but had not spread to the lymph nodes. Having undergone two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, I was well on the road to recovery. But what about the psychosocial issues that I had to face? Sure, physically I was treated and considered in remission but I had so many things to deal with on a human level. Would my fiancé still love me and follow through with the wedding? How would my family deal with my cancer? Would I be able to have children or would the chemotherapy cause an early menopause? How would my friends deal with this and how would I cope with those who turned away from me? How would I deal with my own fears of reoccurrence? Could I cope with my altered anatomy? Would I have problems with the insurance company?
How does one get through this seemingly endless ordeal of treatments and concerns? Everyone has different coping mechanisms. Some people may turn to religion and others find comfort in family, friends and support groups. Some individuals take an active role in altering their lifestyles by incorporating a healthy diet and exercise. While my determination and zest for life greatly influenced my decision to fight and eventually defeat this disease, I too sought help from many organizations and support networks to facilitate the treatment and healing process.
Give yourself a monthly breast self-exam.
Have a baseline mammogram by age 40, earlier if you have a strong family history.
Have a clinical exam every two years up to age 50, and every year there after.
If treated in Carcinoma in situ (stage 0) - 95% success rate.
If treated in stage I - 85% success rate.
If treated in stage II - 66% success rate.
If treated in stage III - 41% success rate.
If treated in stage IV - 10% success rate.
Success and reoccurrence rates depend on many factors including overall health, age, obesity, family history, stage of cancer, etc.
For more information contact:
National Cancer Institute 800-4-CANCER
American Cancer Society 800-227-2345
Linda Creed Foundation 215-242-3633
The Wellness Community Center 215-879-7733
Breast Health Institute 215-627-4447
Living Beyond Breast Cancer 610-645-4567
Oncolink (by the University of Pennsylvania) - www.oncolink.upenn.edu
Women’s Cancer Network - www.wcn.org
by Nancy Cohen, RN, BSN & Kevin Flynn