You Have a Lump
My name is Beth, and this is my story. It all started on October 26, 2011–10 days after my 30th high school reunion. I went for my annual exam. Ten minutes into the visit, my gynecologist said, “You have a lump” (4 words). Thirty minutes later, I was having a mammogram (a month before my regularly scheduled one) and an ultrasound. An hour later, a wonderful technician took me into a room and put me on the phone with my doctor, who said, “We found something suspicious” (4 words), and to find a surgeon and schedule a biopsy ASAP. That wonderful technician never let go of my hand. She was the first of many angels I met on my journey. Six days later, I had a biopsy, and on November 4, 2011, my world turned upside down when I heard, “You have breast cancer” (4 words). I was 48 years old.
Part of my story involves how and where I received my diagnosis. I am a lobbyist for a financial services company, and the day after my biopsy, I traveled to Washington, D.C., on a business trip. As every cancer patient knows, the thing you crave most is normalcy. While I didn’t yet know that I was a cancer patient, I craved normalcy and the thought of sitting at home, waiting for the results was unbearable to me. I was in a meeting room with about 75 people when my cellphone started ringing, and I could see it was the surgeon’s office. I made it out to the lobby where the diagnosis was delivered. It was as if all of the air had left the building. All I wanted to do was to get back to my room to call my mom. I held it together until she picked up the phone, and I burst into tears. I felt like a child who falls off her bike and doesn’t cry until she gets home to Mom.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2B. I had a lumpectomy a week before Thanksgiving. My margins were not clean, and I had node involvement. I chose to have a single mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and I’ve never regretted that decision. The surgery was 4 days before Christmas–Happy Holidays to me! I had 8 rounds of chemo–4 Red Devils (adriamycin & cytoxan) followed by 4 Taxols. I lost all of my hair and started reconstruction during chemo. I finished treatment on May 4, 2012 –“You are a survivor” (4 words)–and had reconstructive surgery later that summer with the final surgery that fall. I have been taking Tamoxifen for 3-1/2 years and will continue for another 6-1/2 years. I still have neuropathy in my feet, but it is gone from my hands.
I have met the most incredible people on this journey I never signed up for. I am proud to be a survivor. I feel blessed every day. My sister survivors are the bravest women I’ve ever met. They give me hope and courage every day. I passed my 4 year survivorship milestone this past November. Some days, it feels like yesterday, and other days, it feels like a lifetime ago. Some days, I scratch and claw my way through, and other days I just feel incredibly lucky. Year 5 is a biggie for those of us who face down the beast that is cancer. I plan to spend this year fighting for a cure, sharing my story with anyone who needs it, and living my life. Just living my life. Life is good. Life is so very good. My final 4 words would be, “Go live your life.”
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.