Sally Martel; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60; wife, mother, retired accountant; New Hampshire, Florida
"The hardest part of the whole mess was deciding what I wanted to do. I struggled with the decision-making process. Finally a dear, sweet lady said, 'Do your homework, make a decision, and don't look back. You can deal with whatever is up ahead when you get to it.' She was right."
Mitzi Scarborough; diagnosed in 1999 at age 37; childcare provider; Arkansas
"How much do you really want to know? Be honest with yourself. Once you have the answer and know what your learning style is, find a survivor who is a match with you."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46; insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon
"I would have loved to talk with someone about all of this before I had surgery and treatment. The worst part was my imagination. I worried myself to death with chemotherapy horror stories. But it's a lot like pregnancy; it's livable, doable."
Joy West; diagnosed in 2000 at 34; advertising account coordinator; South Carolina
"In deciding which option was best for me, I felt like I was looking at a Chinese menu. But what I found most comforting was that no matter who I talked to or what her own decision was, each felt confident of her decision even years later. Women even offered to show me their breasts. The idea of going to work without a bra began to sound pretty good."
Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47; merchandiser; South Carolina
"During the diagnosis phase, go to a fertility clinic for advice if you desire to have children after treatment for breast cancer."
Alexandra Koffman; diagnosed in 1997 at age 40; registered nurse; Massachusetts
"When you're first diagnosed, you may find yourself reading books, watching videos, getting more and more information on your options. The important thing to remember is that you need to make the decision that's best for you. No one else can tell you that what you have decided to do is wrong, because there is no wrong, if this is what you want."
Glenda Chance; diagnosed in 2000 at age 38; homemaker, mother, and wife; Ohio
"Be your own advocate. Do what feels right for you. Don't let anyone talk you into anything."
Rhonda Sorrell; diagnosed in 1998 at age 43; special education teacher; Michigan
"Knowledge is power. The more educated you become, the less frightening the unknown is. Read, read, and read more. It helps!"
Cathy Hanlon; diagnosed in 2000 at age 42; school researcher; New York
"Twenty-one years ago, when I was diagnosed, many people recommended that I read a particular book on breast cancer. It happens that the author's husband had left her following her diagnosis. I remember thinking how depressing that was. My husband was there. He was worried about me, and I was worried about him, since he looked like he'd been kicked in the stomach. I never had to even think about his leaving. I knew I was more to him than a pair of breasts, and any woman with a strong relationship should know so, too. It helped him that a family friend whose wife had recently had a mastectomy made the effort to talk to him. Marty isn't one who easily verbalizes his feelings, but having a friend who'd been through it was good for him."
Lynne Rutenberg; diagnosed in 1980 at age 35; retired teacher; New Jersey
"Research everything about your disease. Ask questions. The ultimate decisions are yours to make. If you do your homework, you will feel that you have done the best for yourself and, ultimately, for all those who love and depend on you."
Christine Webber; diagnosed in 1998 at age 55; registered nurse; Illinois
"Everyone handles traumatic situations differently. What is right for one can be wrong for another. I did everything I could not to dwell on my situation. I chose my doctors, got a second opinion, contacted the National Cancer Institute for the latest information, then I left it at that. A friend mailed me a book she had painstakingly highlighted to make the information she thought I needed more accessible -- I never read it. People sent me articles, which I never read. I dressed up for every appointment, so my doctors and nurses would see what I looked like well and consider me a person who would be well. I was not in denial about having had breast cancer. Whenever I had a chance, I mentioned it to people. That was the promise I had made, the 'bargain' for my life...that I would spread the word that women had breast cancer and lived."
Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
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