1 On Diagnosis: First Things First
2 Losing a Breast: Practical and Emotional
3 Radiation: Soaking Up the Rays
4 Chemo and Hair: Mane Matters
5 Chemo and Everything Else: A Smorgasbord
6 Taking the Reins: Regaining Control
7 Family: Our Inheritance
8 Friends: We Pick 'Em
9 The Workplace: Making It User-Friendly
10 Support Groups: From Traditional to Offbeat
11 Humor: You Gotta Laugh...
12 Men: By, For, and About
13 Exercise: Making the Body Better
14 Religion: Bringing In the Big Gun
15 Pure Uplift: Wrapping It Up with a Bow
List of Contributors
An Invitation from Uplift
Chapter One: On Diagnosis
First Things First
Where was I when I learned that I had breast cancer? You may as well ask where I was when I learned that JFK had been shot. I will never forget either answer.
In the case of JFK, I was in college, returning to my dormitory after class to find the television on in the dorm living room and my friends gathered around it. I remember feeling total disbelief -- that what had happened couldn't be so. It had nothing to do with political affiliation and everything to do with youth, vigor, and Camelot.
In the case of breast cancer, I felt no disbelief. I was working out in the basement of our home when my surgeon called to say that the results of my biopsy were in and that the tiny little granules she had removed from my breast were malignant. She told you that on the phone? Indeed, she did. It was just the right thing for me, and she knew it. She and I had been through biopsies together before. She knew that my mother had had breast cancer and that I'd been expecting it. She knew that the best approach to take with me would be the understated one. What she actually said was, "You've spent a lifetime waiting for the other shoe to fall, and now that it has, it's a very small shoe. The cure rate for this is ninety-nine-point-five percent. Here is what I recommend ..."
I listened. Then I hung up the phone and called my husband. Then I finished working out. In doing that, I was showing myself that I was healthy and strong, cancer and all. I needed to minimize the impact of what I'd learned...because just as a certain idealism had been lost when JFK was shot, so I knew that with a diagnosis of breast cancer, a part of my life was forever changed.
I was shaky as I climbed back up the stairs -- and what had me most frightened wasn't the prospect of having a re-excision and radiation. It was phoning our three sons, who were in three different states, in college and law school at the time. I went about making dinner, a crucial same-old same-old, as I put through those calls, and as I talked with each son I had the first of many cancer experiences that weren't nearly as bad as I'd imagined. "Curable" was the word I stressed. My confidence was contagious.
"When I was first diagnosed, I knew pretty much nothing about breast cancer -- except that I didn't want it! By learning everything I could, I started to calm down, sort things out, and actively make decisions. Knowledge is power. It definitely makes you feel a little bit more in control of your life."
Deborah Lambert; diagnosed in 2000 at age 47; medical secretary; Massachusetts
"The first thing I did when the doctor told me I had breast cancer was to sit down, since I was weak in the knees, then to get a pen and paper. As an educator I needed to get it all in print, to get it right. That served to calm me immediately."
Christine Foutris; diagnosed in 1999 at age 49; teacher; Illinois
Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
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