Editor’s note: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Chicago Sun-Times invited breast cancer survivors to share their stories. We’ll share these first-person accounts throughout the month.
It was October 2011, right around my 29th wedding anniversary when, while doing a self-exam, I found a lump in my left breast. I thought it was my imagination or the way I was on my bed, but it didn’t go away. I found a doctor and scheduled appointment as soon as possible. I got my mammogram the next day.
It was inconclusive and an ultrasound was done the same day, but still no definite answer. Around the time of my biopsy, I found out I was going to be a grandmother for the first time. I couldn’t be happier. Two days after, I called my doctor and heard the words no woman wants to hear: “You have breast cancer.” I was devastated!
By mid-December I was scheduled for a lumpectomy. I had to be at the hospital at 10:30 a.m. I was going to be released later in the day and could go home to recuperate — no overnight stay. I was glad.
I was home by about 7 p.m. My husband made dinner, which meant we needed to decide where he was going to pick up food. Except for feeling a little discomfort, I felt pretty good. One of the lymph nodes was positive for cancer, so my treatment would include radiation and chemo. I knew breast cancer chemo makes you lose your hair; I wasn’t at all looking forward to that. Actually every time I thought about that, I started to cry. People telling me it was only hair and that it will grow back didn’t help because you have to be the one in order to understand it.
I started chemo in early January and finished after my birthday in early March. Four chemos, followed by seven weeks of radiation, followed by five years of hormone therapy, which I think is the worst part of it all. I still have over two years to go.
It was rough, but family and friends helped me get through it, and knowing I was going to be a grandmother helped too. I have learned some lessons along the way. Life is short, so as Nike says, “Just do it,” sometimes it is all about me, and don’t put off doing things because you may not be here tomorrow.
Karen Zivin, Hoffman Estates