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When the Teacher Becomes the Student

My journey through breast cancer started five years ago this month. It was in April of 2007 that I was sent to a specialized breast clinic, and would be diagnosed with breast cancer. The quest to be healed would have many twists and turns along the road. Nothing was simple.

I had my first surgery towards the end of April. It was a lumpectomy, and they would check the margins to verify if they had managed to extract all the cancer cells. They hadn't.

The next step was to make a decision. We could either go in and remove a bit more, and see if we got it, or go for a full mastectomy. I elected for the mastectomy, but requested they remove both breasts. And so the process began to arrange for surgery. As I was having a double mastectomy, I also needed to consult with a plastic surgeon for the reconstruction part. We were now into May, and making more decisions. I elected to have reconstruction using the skin from my stomach. I thought this would be a more natural choice for me.

My surgery was scheduled for August 3, 2007. I was in the operating room for ten and a half hours. My doctor told me that when I woke up from surgery, I would feel like I had been run over by a truck. Never having been run over by a truck, I can't pretend to know how that feels. I can only say that the way I felt was awfully close.

Throughout all this, and through the eight rounds of chemotherapy I would undergo following my recovery from surgery, I maintained my positive attitude. I KNEW I would be healed. I knew I would go on to do better things. I was determined to speak about my experience and help other patients and their loved ones the best that I could.  I didn't dwell much on the "why me?". I instead took the opportunity to set an example to my three daughters. If you experience that bump in the road, pick yourself up, and carry on.

And here's the catch..... I suddenly find myself in the pupil's seat. In less than four months I will mark my five years of being cancer free.  This is a true milestone for a cancer survivor, and one to celebrate. But it also scares me. Where do I go from here? There has always been something to count and look forward to. What happens after that? When will my oncologist tell me that I don't have to see him anymore? What will I think when he says that? Will my mindset change?

It's time for the teacher to become the student. I can't tell you the answers to these things yet, but I can say this is a normal reaction for any cancer survivor. I still have much to learn from others who have traveled the road that I'm on. I will face this unknown like I face all the other unknowns that have been in my life: with courage, gratitude for what I have in the moment, and the belief that the future will continue to be kind and generous to me.

And I will plan a party.

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Reader Comments (3)

Congratulations Andrea! I am so happy for you and the happy outcome after all the hard work. You are truly an inspiration to us ALL! Hope you have a HUGE party. Send me an invite! I may surprise you and come to Canada!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Lucas Morelli

The first noticeable symptom my wife had when she was diagnosed with breast cancer was typically a lump that felt different from the rest of the breast tissue. Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for breast cancer. The choice of which type of surgery is based on a number of factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the type of tumor and the person's overall health and personal wishes. Breast cancer is staged from 0 to IV. Luckily my wife was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer and now after a year she is cancer free and doing great.

More on breast cancer experience at http://www.forerunnershealthcare.com/breast-cancer-treatment-surgery-India-low-cost-benefits.html

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Congratulations on beating the big C. Honestly, if I were you, when my oncologist says that I don't need to see him anymore, I'd take that as the final definitive proof that the worst is over. Celebrating with a party is definitely a good idea. You might want to invite the oncologist to repay him for all he has done.

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June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEugene Fitzgerald

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