This is a story I copied for all to read. It’s about a woman who had the courage to remove her breast with stage 0 breast cancer, only to find out after the mastectomy she had stage 1 that hadn’t been detected in the mammograms.
At what point do you consider yourself to have cancer? Is it pre-cancer – Stage 0? Is it when it becomes invasive? Do you have to be put through the gamut of chemotherapy and radiation? Or could it just be a pill you take on a daily basis?
I’m sure everyone has a different impression of what that point is. I was first diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. In other words, I had pre-cancer. My cells were changing; there was no doubt about that. The cluster of cells that were found had different stages of change where at any time one of those cells could have become invasive.
During that time of diagnosis, I was uneasy with saying I had cancer. I felt that since it wasn’t invasive, I couldn’t consider it to be cancer. With a family history of breast cancer and a high recurrence rate among those that had it, I didn’t want to take my chances. I opted for a double mastectomy to better my chances. I was in my early thirties at the time and there was an occasional struggle for the doctors to take me seriously about my history and concerns. I had to fight for routine mammograms – something no one should ever have to do. I was being proactive in my own breast health.
Once I had my double mastectomies, the pathology report surprised me. Indeed, I had invasive breast cancer. It was a spot that was undetected on all my previous imaging. The good news came when I was told that since I had the mastectomies I wouldn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. The cancer was caught early enough and a daily dose of Tamoxifen should do the trick. I felt like I dodged a huge bullet there.
The other day I was told I never had cancer. This was coming from someone who was just being rude and didn’t recall the facts. I understand that my original diagnosis wasn’t necessarily cancer. Some of those cells may not have become invasive, but others may have – it was just a matter of time. My diagnosis changed though, and there is no doubt that I had invasive cancer. Maybe it was said because I was fortunate enough not to have the typical treatment most people associate cancer with. I didn’t lose my hair. I wasn’t sick to my stomach. I was just able to live my daily life as I would have in a healthy situation. Either way, it was unfair of this person to make that judgement.
That’s the thing, you can’t make judgements and assume you are always right. You might notice the person walking down the street towards you. They might look like they are happy and enjoying life, but you don’t know what they are really going through. I may have looked healthy and normal, but I had cancer. I fought cancer with a mastectomy and a daily pill. I survived because of the choices I made. I am a cancer survivor.