I was stunned to learn that I had Stage 2A breast cancer because I was only 51 years old, had no family history of breast cancer and did not feel sick.
I was in court trying to negotiate an agreement when I got the call. I turned to my adversary and said, “You have one minute to sign the agreement.” The judge (thank goodness) quickly ruled in my favor and I literally ran to my car to call my husband.
I was scared, shocked and numb. While the diagnosis was daunting, my doctor assured me that he used the “know error system,” a test that leverages DNA matching to confirm that biopsy samples being evaluated belong to the patient being diagnosed. I was relieved to know that it was MY diagnosis and not someone else’s.
It wasn’t the cancer that made this ordeal difficult, it was the cure. I had surgery, 20 weeks of chemotherapy, and followed up with 7 weeks of radiation. At times I felt overwhelmed and could not believe how physically weak I had become. I slowly learned that “giving in to the cure” didn’t make me weak-it made me stronger. I tried to keep positive through the treatments. Don’t get me wrong-I spent a lot of time in the shower crying and on my knees dealing with this, but I knew it would not defeat me.
I realized that many people care deeply for me and my family. Family and friends rallied around me and I was overwhelmed and humbled by the support.
I am a believer in the adage, “What does not kill us makes us stronger.” Upon reflection, I think things that happened earlier in my life to give me the strength to deal with this with some grace, but I was surprised that I was able to keep a sense of humor through it. Everyone – my family, friends and colleagues – were surprised at my attitude. I joked with friends that my stubborn Irish constitution wouldn’t let this thing win.
I learned it’s important to have balance in your life, to keep going to the gym, and you have no idea what a bad “hair day” actually is!
The worst thing about this was the fear I saw in my friends and family. The best thing about my cancer is that it opened my eyes to a more fulfilled way of life.
One of the funnier lessons learned was that no one will sit near the bald chick at the movie theater. Like my nephew said, “You know, if people didn’t know you were sick, they’d just think you were a bad ass.” I guess he was right!