A Positive Life: I was 47 with a wonderful husband and 3 daughters ages 24, 23 and 14. Who would have thought that being Asian, a breast feeding mom, a nonsmoker and never drinking alcohol, that my mammogram would show a malignant shadow?
It was the summer of 2001 at my yearly mammogram when two radiologists found a tiny suspicious spot – this office does double read mammograms (two sets of eyes are better than one). An ultrasound was followed by a stereotactic biopsy with the insertion of a metal clip marker; I knew then that this could be something more. Why mark the spot unless you need to revisit it? The path report found the spot to be malignant, and soon a lumpectomy followed.
My surgeon was in awe that I tested positive for cancer; I could tell in the appointment that she was at a loss for words, me too. With all of the positives on my side, this was not to be, I’m only 47 I thought to myself. My words to the surgeon after the daunting “you have cancer” was “who do I know that’s living?” I thought of two friends that were still alive after their diagnosis and thinking of them turned my panic into calmness. My middle daughter was with me, we both cried.
Living with Breast Cancer: I walked into work on September 11, 2001 and as I was blurting out my news, at the exact moment, the Twin Towers had been hit. We were all in a state of OMG and suddenly my bad news was not as important as what had just happened. Putting it into perspective, I felt the world was in turmoil and I had to feel sadness for those involved, not myself. I again felt calmness about my own situation, knowing that I was still alive.
I was soon off to see the oncologist, a female who I was so happy to have available to me. I felt comfortable talking to her since it was breast cancer, and she was Asian to boot! My cancer was a stage 0 and .05 centimeters in size which was not palpable as of yet. I was lucky that this was caught so early and that it was a slow growing cancer, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), that may have shown up as a lump in 10-15 years. Wow. Thank you for mammography, to radiologists, and for health insurance that I am so fortunate to have. My margins were cleared after a second lumpectomy; good news, no other surgery needed. Whew!!!
So what to do next? I could opt do nothing since margins were clear or have 6 rounds, 5 days a week, of radiation followed by 5 years of Tamoxifen. Hmmm, the decision was mine, yes all mine. I opted for the 6 rounds and Tamoxifen with the hopes of it not ever returning. My first radiation day was frightening, I was alone with no way out, strapped to a bed – here comes the beam of goodness – it was over in 5 minutes, 29 to go. I work in a high school and was so fortunate to be able to go to my five day a week appointment without losing any time, thanks to the wonderful people I work with to this day. I was done by January of 2002, a new year a new lease on life!
Survive & Strive: In 2001 I was the only one with breast cancer in my school, since then a handful of friends have succumbed to the disease. I am now involved with the Lee National Denim Day for Breast Cancer every October and I’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars that go towards research that will help others. Fourteen years later and I am healthy and happy that there are plans in place and fundraisers to help, and of course, I am thankful for my husband and daughters who have been there for me always
Who wants to be a cancer survivor? I do, I do.
Mary is married with three grown daughters, five grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. She works as a Main Office secretary at a high school and has been there for twenty-one years. She walks 1.7 miles every morning at 5:45 am, this is what keeps her focused for the day ahead! She loves going to venues around town listening to live music and spending time with family and friends.