You have a concern, you call you doctor, you get in to see your doctor, she finds “something.” She sends you for the appropriate tests and then, the dreaded phone call comes … “Ann, it’s malignant … you have breast cancer.”
You know, there’s never a good time for a negative diagnosis, and truthfully, no one ever wants one or expects one. But, it happens to 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 2 men) in their lifetime.
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So, where to start? What are your initial thoughts? You probably freak out, tell your loved ones and then get online to figure it all out. You better do all that quickly because, honestly, as soon as that diagnosis comes in there are dozens of decisions to be made and medical appointments to be set.
There are new phrases to learn: degree, stage, extent of coverage and other discriminating distinctions. There are all the surgical and treatment decisions to be made .. and then, there are the serious questions about life:
Will I live?
Will I lose my breast or be disfigured?
How will I be able to continue working?
How will I support myself?
What protocols do I need?
How will my family handle it all?
This thing called cancer. It’s really a very tricky thing and it’s different for every person.
Every individual’s experience must be honored for the uniqueness that it is AND no one can be compared to anyone else. It’s important to respect that.
Cancer does not end when the culprit is removed or after it is attacked with powerful drugs or radiation. So, how long does it last? I contend, that it lasts forever – at least the threat of it returning lasts forever. In reality, however, for many the actual aftermath seems to run two years or so.
But, hear me out: There is life after cancer … and it can be great and you can THRIVE.
I remember the first time I showed up for my cancer support group, just after completing treatments. I asked them when they started feeling more “normal” and they said … 2 years. I started to cry. Now that “treatment” was over, I wanted to go back to who I was. They were loving but honest when they said, “Ann, recovery takes a long time. Be patient. You will experience a New Normal”
So let me tell you why I’m really writing this article.
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My experience of my own cancer was the FINAL piece of the puzzle in a long life of other cancer experiences. I now had a 360 degree view… I could now see through the lens as a patient, along with all the other viewpoints I’ll describe to you.
When I was 31, my youngest brother (then age 26) was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Long story short, he died within 9 months. And, to make matters worse, two weeks after this brother’s death, another brother was killed in a car accident. OMG – I’m a new Mother (with a 7 month old), who just lost two brothers within 2 weeks of each other AND I was the major emotional support for my Mother. I have the view of the caregiver and family member.