Coping with Cancer Changes Body, Mind & Spirit

It was hard to hear the simple words, “It’s invasive ductile carcinoma.”

The hard part was it wouldn’t sink in.

The words gave me a headache. My mind fuzzed up and pain settled in the back of my neck.

But still the words didn’t really move through my brain and arrive at a place that made sense.

I was sure they (two radiologists, an anonymous pathologist and other medical people) were wrong. I didn’t feel sick. There was no lump to be felt. I stopped eating red meat a few years ago. I almost always buy organic foods.

Still that night I let my children know I was facing cancer and then I began doing research.

 I know people who are surviving cancer – some are women who have been handed a breast cancer diagnosis. I asked for help and was amazed at the generosity of those who have walked this path before me.

One month after my diagnosis, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy at Faulkner Hospital. It took me a month to put my life in order, to plan for my care after the hospital and make sure there was a plan to handle my work. My surgeon would have been ready to operate two weeks after the diagnosis.

Most of my friends wanted to analyze my decision to have both breasts removed.

I wasn’t open to altering my decision. I made the decision while I was reading the first book a friend gave me on breast cancer. The book made it clear radiation would not be needed after a mastectomy.

When I met my surgeon she explained that with family history, she could accept my decision. She did ask me to think it over, at least overnight.

Two days later I called the surgeon’s scheduler and we created a plan.

Did I mention I have an inordinate fear of pain?

The day of surgery I finally realized my life was changing forever.

My time at Faulkner Hospital was a blur, thanks to the drugs. But what I remember is waking up in recovery where my surgeon told me the lymph nodes were clear. I think she said something about more detailed pathology reports. I know I closed my eyes so she wouldn’t see I was crying.

I remember it didn’t hurt as much as I expected. I know I didn’t feel much right then. Just relief.

My stay at Faulkner Hospital was brief but, thanks to excellent medical staff, caring nurses and the fact that everyone gets a private room, my path to healing was as smooth as fresh washed sheets.

My children agreed to take turns staying with me for two weeks after the operation. I felt as if it was the first time I’d ever been helpless.

People have helped me in the past. So many times friends have come forward with gifts I didn’t expect or deserve.

This time the cards, the flowers, the food, the gifts and prayers were beyond my wildest dreams. I have yet to write the thank you notes.

For two weeks after the surgery there were four plastic drains coming from my chest to little plastic pouches. It hurt to look at them. Lymphatic  fluid and blood dripped from the drains into the containers.

While the drains were attached, I wore a special mastectomy garment designed by Peg Federoff of

I don’t know how people manage without the garment with the pockets on the inside.

I don’t know how people manage without the blankets of love.

It’s been more than two months since my surgery. I’m thinner than I used to be.

I’m also changing my way of life.

Conventional surgery was a success for me. But I realize now how many people around me have been touched by cancer.

I have my own medical oncologist now. He’s prescribed a drug – an estrogen blocker – that I will be taking for the next five years. I am very fortunate. There will be no chemotherapy or radiation – just this little white pill that I find comforting.

Still I know that there is a 1.5% chance my cancer will return.

I am doing what I can, eating organically, resting more, enjoying my family and friends, living each day to the fullest.

I try to find the blessing delivered by my cancer.  It certainly seemed like a wake-up call.

And now I can say I am truly awake, living in the moment.





Rearranging My Life

Life after cancer should be different from the way it was before.

I’ve been living a day at a time for several decades, trying to appreciate each experience as it happens.

But I still find myself moving through days automatically. Heading from one well known place to another, both online and in reality.

Life after cancer needs to be more mindful.

If I am sitting at my computer, typing and watching the birds, I need to be grateful for the opportunity.

I need to always think about why I have been lucky enough, or blessed enough, to survive my cancer.

Each day is a gift.