My story….On August 19, 2010, I received the dreaded phone call- YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER. Yes, the immediate devastation takes your breath away as you realize that the bottom of your world just dropped out from underneath you. Then the storm of emotional turmoil and despair hits you like a ton of bricks as you see the end of your life flash before your eyes. That’s what I envisioned: my death leaving my husband Richard without a wife and my children Matthew and Alyssa without a mother.
Then you begin battling with anger, disbelief, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and feelings of impending doom. This psychological terror plays itself out over and over again in your mind until exhaustion consumes you. And if that was not enough, I had to find the strength and courage to call the love of my life to tell him the horrible news; knowing that I would crush his heart in a matter of seconds. How do you tell your kids you have CANCER? I remember fighting back tears every time my 9 year old son Matthew would ask, “Mommy do your promise me you’re not going to die”.
Sadly, this paralyzing encounter with CANCER is not unique to me alone. 1 in 8 women will venture down this exact path as they receive their own personal diagnosis of BREAST CANCER.
Now consider your first doctor’s visit. As you sit in the examining room, your doctor is discussing the ensuing surgical procedure with you. However, your concentration and focus is disrupted because the echoes of RADIATION, CHEMOTHERAPY, and MASTECTOMY are looming in your mind.
It’s painful to even imagine how you will look or feel without breasts. All you can envision is the REMOVAL OF YOUR BREASTS. The word “RECONSTRUCTION” is never mentioned. Referrals to reputable plastic surgeons and surgical facilities are not discussed. You are unaware of the private and public medical provisions available for reconstruction. You are in essence alone. The urgency to have the cancer removed is overwhelming as all you can think about is surviving.
The truth is we’re not alone. Women have options. We simply need to be informed. Even though I had spent countless hours researching doctors, I still did not know about all the options for breast reconstruction. Fortunately, a friend of a friend told me about PRMA and that’s how I learned about the DIEP flap procedure. I’ll never forget my first visit with Dr. Pisano when he told me, “I want to give you as much information so you can make the decision that is right for you.”
You need to be comfortable with what your breasts look like, and he was RIGHT! I don’t have horrible scars on my breast and while I have a tummy tuck scar, that itself is not a constant reminder that I had breast cancer. I believe all women should be able to feel and look their best and if their choice is to have implants, tissue transfer, prosthesis or do nothing at all, they deserve to know all their options. It’s scary to think how would I look or feel about my breast and life had I not found PRMA and Dr. Pisano.
Everyone has an opinion of what you should do but at the end of the day, you have to be happy with your decision. It can be overwhelming but you must be your own advocate and take charge so all your questions are answered and you receive the care you deserve.
There’s nothing pretty about having breast cancer, but I’m still in AWE and amazed at all the blessings I’ve received from this horrible disease! The truth is, before I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I was simply living, but not “ALIVE”.
For me, it was death knocking on my door that put things in perspective. I have learned so much thru this Journey and there’s not a single book or Google search engine that could ever teach me these trails. My gratitude is to remember my blessings and share them with others. It always amazes me just when I think I’m helping others, they’re really helping me.
Here’s a few life lessons: Be grateful for what you have and DON’T HAVE! Suffering is inevitable- that’s how we learn through our mistakes or mistakes of others. WE all have a purpose in life and responsibility to fulfill it. Realizing and understanding this has definitely been my greatest blessing! We have the freedom to pray for a cure and to help bring awareness to a disease that has touched so many. Never underestimate the power of prayer! And that the Grace of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you! While these may simplest of blessings- it’s often the easiest we forget.
Yes, I had breast cancer and both breasts removed, but it does not define who I am. I decided from the beginning that my attitude and dependence on God was my biggest strength! I’ve experienced many dark lonely days but I refuse to hide behind this illness and become powerless. I will not live in fear of round 2, 3, or 4. Perhaps my story has the potential to inspire women to get yearly mammograms and checkups and that’s awesome; but I also pray that my story will be the beacon of hope that inspires others to be ALIVE and not simply live.
My advice to others; STAY POSITIVE! Yes, it’s hard and some days almost impossible but try to find something positive every day. Your attitude is the only thing you can control; don’t let this disease rob you of your daily blessings. Some days I would look back at day 1.
Whether it’s Day 1 or Day 1001 of your cancer experience, it’s time to take charge of your health!
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