|Surviving Breast Cancer|
|Friday, 07 October 2011 12:47|
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and once again our awareness of the disease that many women fear is brought to the forefront of our lives. Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer and have survived are so grateful and thankful, while others who appear to have identical diagnoses are struggling or have lost the battle.
My experience with breast cancer rocked my world years ago when my lump was discovered in the U.S. Initially, it was not diagnosed as cancer and for three years, I was just another patient with fibrocystic disease. But I became suspicious when the lump grew from 5mm to 40mm and the last mammogram was negative. Eventually, my experience as a Caribbean-trained medical doctor allowed me to make my own diagnosis of breast cancer.
This was a tragedy for me, because it appeared that the world was closing in on me and I was not ready for that. I was young and hadn't had my children long enough. I felt sorry for myself and my mind replayed past sorrows as friends began to tell me stories of persons who developed breast cancer and died.
My pity party grew with the fact that my diagnosis was missed for three years, increasing the chances of me dying from this disease within five years. Years later, it was discovered that the cancer has spread to the bone of my sternum. I was crushed because I trusted the medical system in the USA and depended on them to have initially made the correct diagnosis. But, when everyone and the world was screaming "NO" to my survival, the quiet voice of hope whispered "give life one more try." It is what Barack Obama calls the audacity of hope.
I developed a sense of purpose to defy medical statistics and became driven to survive. I believed that there was something greater for me that existed at that moment. My experience with a cancer diagnosis taught me not to have a fear-based existence. It taught me that statistics are not written in stone, that prognoses do not define anything about me. I was driven by the 1988 Olympic Games theme song that says "give me one moment in time, when I am more I thought I could be."
I was given that chance when I made the choice to go through an intense treatment program which included surgery to remove the diseased breast and high dose chemotherapy and eventual removal of the sternum followed by radiation.
It was then that I knew I had to develop the courage to become a warrior. Courage is the virtue that is most often associated with warfare. We all face situations in which we see the right course of action but we fear taking it as it may put us in jeopardy. What determines your level of courage is how you handle fear. Warriors face it. Cowards run. I became a warrior. My initial treatment lasted nine long months. During that period I experienced all the side effects of chemotherapy including total hair loss.
My triumph is that despite a late diagnosis, today I am an almost 25 year survivor of stage 4 breast cancer. I have been transformed from being a victim into becoming a victor. In fact, I think of myself of not surviving but thriving. Because of that experience, I have written a book titled "A Practical Guide to Coping with Cancer" that has helped hundreds of women in Jamaica where I now reside. Having seen women abandoned by their partners because of a diagnosis of breast cancer also encouraged me to write another book titled "If Love's so Nice, Why Does it Hurt?"
I was also motivated by my devastating experience of hair loss during my treatment to start the Hair Loss Clinic of Jamaica for both men and women.
Despite my professional life, I play golf, tap dance, cycle, live a full active life and I am a vibrant member of my local Cancer Society doing many performances for charity.
Cancer survivors are warriors. We must grow stronger, more educated and more powerful. But these treasures do not come without a price. Strength breeds power and the responsibility to use it to work justly for the good of ourselves and others.
Follow the links below for more "Surviving Breast Cancer - Stories of Triumph
Click here for a list of support groups in your area.
Read more of Dr. Jennifer Mamby-Alexander M.D. at www.survivingyourbreastcancer.com
|Last Updated on Monday, 31 October 2011 13:26|