Enjoying the Present

In April 1998, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was scheduled for an annual physical, but I was in the onset of menopause and felt a strange lump in my left breast. I called the clinic and asked if I could come in for a mammogram earlier than my physical because I felt this strange lump.

Typical of some situations, the lump disappeared the day of the mammogram. I also started my period that day, the first time in three months. I was asked to come in for another mammogram because there was an abnormality. Then I got another call asking me to come back in for a mammogram with a different view and an ultrasound.

I was in shock because the lump they found on the mammogram was in the right breast, not the left where I found a lump. The lump was a hard one, not a cyst, so I was scheduled for a biopsy.

I told my surgeon that I wanted a total lumpectomy, not just a needle biopsy. My gut feeling was that this 7 mm lump was malignant, but those feelings did not totally prepare me for the news that it was malignant.

The next few days were like a whirlwind. I found everything I could to read about breast cancer. I wanted to make my own decision regarding my treatment. After a lot of investigating and going over my pathology report, I decided on a treatment. I was told I could have either a mastectomy or the lumpectomy and radiation.

I decided to have the mastectomy, and I was fortunate because there was no cancer in any of my lymph nodes. I cried a lot, especially at night, but my family was terrific. I prayed, and I decided that this is just another hurdle that I have to climb in life. I have different attitudes on different aspects of life, but I live more for myself now. I have two wonderful grandchildren, two great daughters and a fantastic husband that allow me to be me.

Cancer is not the only thing that affects my family. My grandson is a hemophiliac. My mother had bypass surgery in the fall of 1996, and I cared for her in my home for some time. In July 1999, my only sibling, my 49-year-old brother, passed away suddenly. After my diagnosis of breast cancer in 1998 and all these difficulties, I know that my family can combat anything.

Every day, I think about life and what is important. Every day I thank God that my cancer was found at such an early stage — thank goodness for mammograms. I don’t think about the cancer as a negative. I feel that it is gone and it changed my life. I am more aware of many things, and I appreciate every day. My husband says I have an “ATTITUDE,” but it is OK.

I plan to live a lot longer than the 52 years I have behind me now. I wake up every day and go on with life whether it is work, play or my volunteering with Reach for Recovery. I don’t think about what could have been or what could be; I think about what is now and how life is now because now is all I can control. It’s like the saying, “yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s the future, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”

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