"When I woke up after a lumpectomy and learned that I had breast cancer, I was in shock. To show how little I knew, when my husband was visiting and offered me a sip from his drink, I declined, saying that we didn't know if he could catch cancer from my germs. After he left, I picked up a book that a friend had left. Opening it at random, my eyes caught the words, 'A cancerous cell is, in fact, a weak and confused cell.' That made both of us, I thought, and laughed heartily."
Carol Pasternak; diagnosed in 1986 at age 47; artist; Ontario, Canada
"I was devastated when I got the diagnosis of cancer. I'd had my mammogram faithfully every year. I went home to prepare dinner in a sort of shock. As I stood at the stove I worried about what was going to happen and how I could handle it. Then, suddenly, a feeling of calm and peace came over me, and an inner voice said, 'You will be all right.' From that moment on, I knew I would survive."
Wendy Golab; diagnosed in 2000 at age 63; nurse; Connecticut
"Realize that a diagnosis of cancer does not mean instant doom. You have time to investigate, reflect, get several opinions, and make careful decisions. Tell yourself this every morning, and tell everyone around you to keep telling it back to you."
Susan Stamberg; diagnosed in 1986 at age 48; broadcast journalist; Washington, D.C.
"I didn't make any decisions about treatment until my children and significant other had been told. We all went to the surgeon's office together the next day. My children were all in their twenties. The home care nurse and I gave one daughter a crash course in Nursing 101 so that she could change my dressings, and they all took turns driving me to my doctor appointments and treatment. This was a reassurance for them that nothing was being kept from them."
Becky Honeycutt; diagnosed in 1995 at age 53; licensed practical nurse; Indiana
"One of the very first things I did, after the words 'cancer' and 'radiation' were mentioned, was to get down to the local library to see what radiation entailed."
Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48; administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts
"When I was first diagnosed, I wanted information immediately. I wanted to know which treatment plan was right for me. I rushed out and purchased the largest book on breast cancer I could find and read it twice. I sought the advice of trusted family, friends, doctors, and breast cancer survivors. I made sure I was equipped with the best possible information, so that I could be my own best advocate."
Corinne Wood; diagnosed in 1997 at age 42; Lieutenant Governor; Illinois
"Treat your diagnosis as a business problem. Do research. Use the Internet, and go through literature at the hospital resource room. Feeling in control is pretty important, so begin with a notebook. The inside cover should have the name and telephone numbers of each of your caretakers (doctor, nurse, etc.) as they come on the scene. The notebook can be sectioned to keep track of doctors' appointments, definitions, outside advice, and so on."
Anne Jacobs; diagnosed in 1999 at age 62; managing partner, real estate; Massachusetts
"Try to attend lectures on breast cancer. All major hospitals have these programs. Just call the community relations director. Attend lectures on the side effects of treatment and the importance of good nutrition."
Ellen Beth Simon; diagnosed in 1998 at age 41; lawyer; New Jersey
"When I went to appointments after the diagnosis, I always had two or three of the children with me and sometimes all of them. They had so many questions to ask and also wanted to make sure I understood all the doctor was saying. After a while, I went alone with just my husband. When the doctor came in and saw only the two of us, he started hunting in all the closets and cupboards and finally said, 'Okay, where are they hiding?' We got a big chuckle out of that."
Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
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