Breast Cancer: Stuff They Never Tell You
Survivors are part of a sisterhood, and sharing stories–funny, sad, ironic–is what sisters do best.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
Hearing the words, "I'm sorry, but it's cancer," comes as a shock to anyone, and I never thought I would hear them that day.
I was in my mid-40s, a marathon runner, healthy eater, non-smoker, no family history. The only real risk factor I had was giving birth to my first child after age 30.
I cried (hysterically), I went for a long run the next morning, I got a second opinion, I told a handful of people and I tried not to think about it.
I made a list of other women I knew who had fought–or were fighting–this awful disease. In a few moments, I came up with more than 15 names of women in my community, most of whom were right around my age. Clearly, I was not alone. If I made that list today, it would be at least twice as long.
As a journalist, I have an ability to reach an audience greater than just my personal circle of friends. I thought then about how I could have an impact on this new "sisterhood," and those who would (unfortunately) join it in the future.
I could talk about the things they never tell you: that the radioactive/blue dye cocktail that's injected as part of a sentinel node biopsy (performed along with a lumpectomy) turns your urine blue for the next day or two and sets off the security alarm going in and out of the drug store when you are just trying to pick up your painkillers.
Or, that getting radiation also involves getting a few tattoos. And getting marked up by Sharpies. If I had known, I would not have worn my brand-new white shirt that day!
SHARE: What is your story? What is something you experienced or learned about breast cancer that people don't normally talk about?
I ran home from the hospital after one of my radiation treatments, just because my doctor said he never knew of anyone else doing that before, and because it was one of the ways I chose to face (spit in the face of) this disease.
There is so much more I could say–and write –about the experience of being diagnosed and treated. I could write about running the Race for the Cure just six weeks after my lumpectomy, or running the National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer just 11 months after my diagnosis.
Most of what I'd like to say is if you hear those dreaded words, face it fighting. When you're diagnosed, you have a disease. The best thing you can do is fight it, the best way you know how.
Talk about it if you can, and share your story. Walk for the cure. Run for the cure. Support your friends and neighbors. If you help just one person get an early diagnosis, you will have had an incredible impact on another's life.