Claudia S. on January 31, 2012
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage 1 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma
Type and Description of Treatments:
I had a lumpectomy, followed by 5 1/2 months of chemotherapy, then a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction (expansion with implants). It was an 18 month process which has shaped my life profoundly.
How do you feel today?
I feel great today.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?
I am much less impatient. I have lots more compassion. I rarely really get angry. I've learned to let it go and to focus on what is most important in my life - family and friends.
What is going well for you right now?
I'm learning how to pace myself and allow life to unfold. I feel very strong and healthy and I'm very conscious of how lucky I am to feel so good after a year and a half of feeling so bad.
What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?
The first time I heard the words "breast cancer" after my mammogram was the hardest part for me. After that, hearing that I had to have a mastectomy was earth shattering. The entire reconstruction process was tough for me. Chemo was hard, but my oncology nurses were like angels to me. My breast surgeon as well as my oncologist both allowed me to be a part of the decision making process and that made a world of difference.
When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?
My fear of recurrence is low right now, but every now and then it rears its ugly head and I go to my closest friends to talk it out. I have a large network of support and I lean on them all, as I did during the actual process of chemo and my surgeries.
How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?
I am much more relaxed about life and truly do not sweat the small stuff anymore. I'm looking for a way to give back to the breast cancer community. I feel very lucky to be done with all of my treatments and would like to offer support to anyone else who is going through breast cancer. It's a wild ride, but if you are an active participant in your own care, and are open and receptive to allowing others to help you, you may come to see that cancer has had a strong and in an odd way, positive impact on your life.
What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?
I am a marketing consultant and work from my home office full time.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?
I've actually been considering a career change to focus on work that is related to breast cancer.
What has helped you continue to work the most?
I was able to continue to work the entire time of my illness because of some truly fabulous clients and the fact that I work from home. I am really lucky!
What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?
I would recommend that you tell your boss what you're going through and ask them for their support during the process of treatments and/or surgery. I have found that most people rise to the occasion and want to help and support you through the process. I was truly pleasantly surprised by all my clients responses to my diagnosis - each and every one was extremely supportive and only wanted the best for me.
How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?
After each chemo, I usually felt my worst on the 2nd & 3rd days following my treatments. I scheduled my chemos on Friday and would feel my worst on Monday afternoon and Tuesday, so wouldn't schedule meetings on those days. I was upfront with my clients because I had told them about my diagnosis, so it worked out fine. I was usually back to normal on Wednesdays and then was ok until my next treatment. I was very tired towards the end of my 5 1/2 months of chemo and just let "chores" go - the house was a mess, laundry didn't get done and I rarely stayed up past 10, because I needed to conserve my energy and deal with the treatments or the surgeries.
If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?
I guess I would tell myself that it's all going to work out and that chemo was not as scary as I had expected. There's not much I would do differently. I was an active participant in my treatments and worked closely together with my team of doctors to help manage my overall health and I would encourage anyone else to do the same. In this era of technology, you can find anything on the web, and I think it's important to be on top of your own treatment. I went to lots of different sites to find information and would encourage anyone else to do the same - but just be sure they're reputable and respected sites.