Who Do I Tell? Where Do I Go?

Today’s survivor is pictured on the right. Imagine you are 36 years old and you haven’t given much thought at all to breast cancer and don’t know any of your friends or colleagues with it and a doctor brings you into his office and….

IN HER OWN WORDS: When I heard those four little words “you have breast cancer” from Dr. Kehoe, I was in shock and disbelief. I was 36 – much too young for breast cancer (or so I thought). Plus, I had no family history. How could this happen to me?

Most women in my shoes would be concerned with telling their children or a spouse about their diagnoses. Unmarried and having no children of my own, I struggled with how I would break the news to my parents. How do I tell my mother, my father? They’ll be devastated.

They had other health matters to deal with – my mom’s heart transplant a few years earlier – and the last thing I wanted to do was stress them out. Afraid to tell my mom, I told my dad first, asking him to break the news to her. Less than two minutes later I was on speaker phone having the conversation with both my parents. It’s a conversation that I ¬†never imagined having with my parents. The tables had turned. Now I was giving them bad medical news about myself, ¬†while before I had been the recipient of such news from them.

The other interesting (and shocking) fact about my diagnosis is that I did not know anyone around my age who was a survivor of breast cancer. Sure, I knew people who had battled this ugly disease, but unfortunately, they didn’t survive it. In fact, the only *living* person I knew who survived breast cancer was my mom’s friend who – at 72 – was twice my age! I’m not really sure if it’s a generational thing, but no one really talked about breast cancer much and none of my friends had dealt with it, so here I was alone and afraid….and only 36 years old..

Then, within days after my diagnosis, a whole world of breast cancer survivors entered my world, starting with Ginger at Dr. Kehoe’s office on day 1. After that, I met or spoke with 20 more survivors who seemed to just come out of the woodwork to offer support, providing words of wisdom (and comfort) and sharing their own experiences – patients of Dr. Kehoe, friends of friends, the American Cancer Society – more than I knew existed! I realized then that I was not alone and, although everyone’s story was different, they were all survivors which gave me so much hope and the strength to fight.

I’m forever grateful to my team of doctors – my surgeon Dr. Kehoe, my oncologist Dr. Malamud and my GYN Dr. Maher – and their staffs, my friends, family and coworkers who were there for me through it all. It’s been 17 years and I’m still going strong. Life isn’t good – it’s amazing! I try not to take anything for granted – appreciating what I have, trying not to get caught up in trivial stuff, living each day to the fullest and continuing to enjoy my passion for travelling whether to the more exotic destinations (such as Morocco) or getting closer to nature at our own National Parks!