Hearing those words, I missed my mother more than ever. I yearned for her voice, assuring me that everything would be okay, reminding me of our strong faith in God, how He had come through for our family so many times before. But I couldn't speak to her, at least not on the phone; she had passed away 10 months earlier. The call I made was to the females in our family -- my sisters, aunts and cousins. We all came together, cried and hugged, but also remained strong.
My doctor and I discussed several treatment options before agreeing that I would do six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and a year's regimen of an antibody drug called Herceptin. I started my chemo in October 2007, and then went back once every three weeks for two months. The treatments lasted all day, so it was therapeutic to bring work with me. The nurses would set me up in a comfortable reclining chair, start the IVs, and I'd go to work.
Through the fatigue, sleepless nights and disappearing taste buds, I was determined to work through my chemo. I did eventually lose all my hair, which was traumatic. Wearing a wig was hard. As a facilitator, every time I would make a presentation, I kept thinking, this thing is going to fall off any minute!
I had a bilateral mastectomy in January 2008. I opted to do both breasts, because I didn't want to risk the cancer coming back to the other breast. Thankfully, the surgery revealed that the chemotherapy had eliminated the tumor. During the procedure, the surgeon, Dr. Donald Lannin, also removed several lymph nodes, which resulted in some soreness and required physical therapy to restore my range of motion.
After completing my chemotherapy in March 2008, I was given a clean bill of health. I see my doctor every six months, and everything's been fine. I am so grateful not only for the incredible doctors and nurses at Yale-New Haven Hospital but also for my family, friends and especially my colleagues, who have been extremely supportive.
Having survived breast cancer, I believe, has made me a better person, more forgiving. I've always been a positive individual, but that's probably to the hundredth degree now. I watch what I say, I'm not as quick to judge, and my faith is so much stronger. I'm careful about what I eat, I joined a gym and I started bike riding with my son. Because I realize now how short life is, and the importance of living in the moment, I don't let the little things get me down. So when my son wants to show me something or play basketball with me, instead of saying, "Just let Mommy finish this e-mail," now I stop and we do it. There is, indeed, life after cancer.