My Breast Cancer: What I Wish My Friends Knew
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a charity that has so impressed me: Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation. I have never met a group of ladies who fought so hard, with so much grace, for a cause that they believed in so deeply. During my conversations with these lovely women over the past month, I realized that while I have not suffered from breast cancer, I have been deeply touched by the disease. At this point, I am sure that we all have. So many of our mothers, sisters, dear friends, and neighbors have faced their diagnosis with courage and poise. And I realized how many times I have wondered: what can I do to help her?
I thought that, for the last post of October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – it would be helpful and informative to ask some of Lynn Sage’s survivors and find out what they wished their friends had known about their diagnosis. Perhaps we can all take away some ideas as to how we can be a better support system for our dear friends who are facing this challenge in their lives right now.
I interviewed three of Lynn Sage’s Board Members and Survivors to get their ideas as to what they want us to know, in their own words.
Sofia Ahmad Jones, Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation Executive Board Member
Her Story: Sofia was diagnosed July of 2012 after she discovered a lump during a self-exam. She went to the doctor and was immediately sent to the Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She had a mastectomy, followed by three months of Chemo, and then 31 days of radiation. Her last treatment was March of 2013 followed by reconstructive surgery six months later.
In her own words: “It all happened so fast and furious during the summer of 2012. I was busy planning a family vacation and my husband had just started a new job. It was a really stressful time and I was so glad to have the Doctors at the Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center to rely on.”
Her Advice: “Take advantage of all of the help that your friends offer you. This is no time to be a martyr. Because my husband had just started a new job, he couldn’t take time off everyday to go to all of my doctor’s appointments. It made us both feel better to know that I had friends who could take me to my appointments, be supportive, and act as a second pair of ears so that I was sure not to miss anything that the Doctor was saying. I was also grateful that my immediate community was able to help me take care of the kids. My friends especially helped me with carpooling so that my kids didn’t have to miss their after school activities just because my schedule was crazy. Moments that could have felt really out of control ended up feeling seamless.”
Kim Feingold, Lynn Sage Cancer research Foundation Executive Board Member, Cardiac Psychologist at NWMH
Her Story: At the age of 38, Kim found herself experiencing so many firsts. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had been married for one year, she had just given birth to her first baby 3 months earlier, and she had just closed on her first home. Literally. She got the call that she had breast cancer during the real estate closing.
In her own words: “It was complete chaos…moving, working, and being a new mom at the same time. Since having another child was a hope of mine at the time, I did make sure to freeze my embryos before I began chemotherapy. Happily, after my treatment, I was able to use a gestational carrier – I am now a mom of 2!”
“The night before my bilateral mastectomy, I threw myself a Goodbye to my Girls Party. I went all out. The house was decorated with everything boobs….treats, specialty cocktails, and all. I wanted to make sure that my last experiences before surgery were filled with laughter and love. I wanted to go into the operating room on a high the next day. Keeping a positive mental attitude and surrounding yourself with your support group from the very start is so important.”
Her advice: “I cannot stress this enough: touch yourself and know yourself. I was lucky to be breast-feeding when I found my lump – because I was touching my breasts every day for feedings. That intimate knowledge of my body helped me detect my cancer early.”
Kristin Wolf, Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation Board Member, VP Planning and Portfolio Initiatives, Tyson Foods
Her Story: Kristin was diagnosed at the age of 40 right after she had her first mammogram. At such a young age and with two little kids at home – she was absolutely stunned. Fortunately, the cancer was caught so early, they actually call it stage 0.
In her own words: “As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew that I wanted to take no chances with this. I immediately underwent a double mastectomy. Because it was all caught early, I was so lucky that this was as aggressive as my treatment got. I did not need chemo or radiation.
Her advice: “After meeting with a dietician at Lynn Sage, I was told that there were FOUR FACTORS that I could adhere to in order to maintain my health: Exercise, Healthy Eating, Good Sleep, and Minimized Stress. Who can argue with that? Today, I exercise as much as possible, eat healthy, get a good night’s sleep, and I do all that I can to minimize stress. I have a full-time job and a family of four – but I make sure that I take the time that I need to take care of myself, too. Most of all, my outlook in life is to avoid dwelling on negativity. Everything in life IS uncertain. You can’t control that part, but you can control your reaction. That’s why I focus on being positive.