SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Fighting breast cancer

October 16, 2012

Former resident talks about her diagnosis, treatment, and the lingering effects

(Continued)

Tell me about your options for treating your cancer. What treatment option did you decide to go with, and how did you come to that decision?

Because I had stage 3 cancer, surgery, chemo, and radiation were all needed to save my life. I had the option of going with a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy depending on how much my tumor shrank after some chemo, but everything I read pointed me toward a mastectomy. There was a brief discussion about harvesting some of my eggs, as I didn’t (and don’t) have any biological children, but my tumor was receptive to estrogen and progesterone and harvesting eggs would have been VERY dangerous.

Where are you now in the treatment process?

I am currently on tamoxifen to block the production of estrogen in my body. I see an oncologist every four to six months. I have regular mammograms, chest x-rays, and visits with my gynecologist.

What has been the hardest part so far, and why?

It’s hard to pick just one. 1: Hearing the shock in the voice and the fear in the eyes of the people I love when I told them I had cancer. How do you tell someone that you might die? 2: Everything that happened after my treatment ended. To the world, you are cured, the cancer is gone, but the reality is that the effects linger and you are never the same.

How have your family and friends supported you?

My family and friends were a huge help during treatment. they provided food, cared for my foster child, sat with me through chemo, and kept me laughing. Laughter was the best medicine by far.

How are you doing now?

I’m hopeful for the future and looking forward to the day when I can officially say I’m “cured.” (Five years after I ended treatment — Feb. 1, 2013.) I still struggle with fatigue, the fear of recurrence, survivor guilt, and more. However, cancer has taught me to live each day to the fullest, as if it were my last. (Cliche, but true.) I am hoping to adopt through the foster care system. I truly love my life.

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Fighting breast cancer
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