The 7 words that will change your life (Or …How WESOS Saved My Life)

“Do you have anyone with you today?”

7 words. That’s all it took to turn my life upside down.

Let me back up a little bit to give you some context for those 7 words.

One of our Chapter Leaders, Deana Lanham, had posted a notification that she was supporting a drive to get women to take better care of their health and advocating for a thermography scan. I didn’t know a thing about thermography scans and didn’t think I really needed one but I love Deana!  I was going to do it to support her. To shorten up the suspense in the story, the thermography scan came back with a “hot spot” in my right breast. I was told that it was more than likely nothing, but it would be worth checking out.

The “checking out” was a doctor’s appointment followed by a mammogram and ultrasound the very next day. Which then resulted in a nurse walking down the hall in the hospital  with me toward a small conference room and saying the words “Do you have anyone with you today?”.

There may be a person or two in the world who would hear those words and not know what was coming next. I wasn’t one of them. I knew what was going to come next.

I have breast cancer.

Actually, I had breast cancer. To make sure of that past tense status, I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy this past Thursday because a thermography, mammogram, ultrasound and guided needle biopsy found two tiny, little, less than pea sized tumors in my right breast.  I’m having reconstruction so that I can head into my late 50’s with better boobs than the ones I entered my early  50’s with. The choice to opt for a bilateral mastectomy – to remove both breasts although only one had cancer and then to reconstruct-  was purely mine. But those two tiny, little, less than pea sized tumors didn’t give me much of a choice about anything after that.

Most of the control that human beings have an illusion of possessing goes out the window when you’re a cancer patient. You are at the mercy of doctors, schedulers, insurance companies, billing departments, and what your body is capable of doing on any given day. But the one choice that cancer cannot remove is the choice of how you react to it. My choice has been, and will continue to be, to fight back and see the blessings in this journey on a path that I never wanted to travel.

Every step along the way has put me in the path of angels. Not necessarily the ones with wings but angels nonetheless. From the extraordinary nurse navigators, who hold your hand and make sense of the things you need to confront, to the insurance customer service agent who taught me the questions to ask and the demands you have the right to make, I have been held up with respect and partnership in a process that can be confusing at best. From the moment I knew what I was facing, I have been blessed. I have literally been gifted with an early diagnosis that would never have been found without a fluke test that I’m still not sure why I took!  The doctors that were put in my path were the top in their field and they have been collaborative partners in restoring my health. When glitches came up, they were fixed with solutions that well exceeded the original plans. Every single variable of this journey has been in my favor and I’m grateful beyond measure that I’ve had the chance to meet the amazing men and women who have helped me along the way.

In any situation like this, any diagnosis that shakes you to your core, fear can choke out any positivity you have. It can fill you with doubt and expand every negative thought until it pounds in your head and drowns out everything good and real. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the greatest gifts I was given from one of my nurse navigators was a book that became my breast cancer bible. It answered every question I ever had from the perspective of both care givers and patients. But the most profound thing it taught me was about fear. It described this experience as being in a dark room. The things you can’t see in the dark become scarier and the monsters under the bed get bigger and hairier and grow longer teeth. But if you just turn on the light, the fear goes away. It doesn’t make it easier and the cancer doesn’t go away. But if you turn on the light with focus and knowledge and an attitude that perseveres, you can let the burden of fear go and concentrate on the things that will make you well.

It’s not going to be easy. A whole lot of it will be crappy and nothing will ever be the same. You may face a more invasive form of this disease or a more advanced stage. But even when you feel like the world is completely out of control, you have the last and most important choice in this. Choose fighting over fear. Turn on the light. Face it head on and know that you can beat this. Believe that you will beat this.

So that question we started with at the beginning of this post… If you hear those 7 words, you are not alone. There are wonderful, talented and committed professionals who will be there to help you along the way. There are warriors who have fought this monster and are here to give you advice and strength. And when you are victorious, you’ll be the person helping the next traveler on the path. With every kindness you receive and return, cancer gets diminished.

“Do you have anyone with you today?”

It’s a question I pray you never hear. But if you do, the answer will always be “Yes.” I’ll be with you. I’m going to be that voice in your head that says “No, it’s not fair. Yes, it sucks. I know you’re afraid. But turn on the light and work your way to the exit.  Take back your choices and fight!  We can do this together.”

Before I came to WESOS  for the first time, I never imagined that the company and love of strangers who became friends would see me through the hardest times of my life.  That I would literally have my life saved by a Facebook post. That I would be able to count on and return the energy and light of thousands of women in a community that grows deeper and stronger each day. That I would receive the blessing of a partner and dearest friend ,  the amazing Jean Lavallie, who has been my rock for the weeks leading up to this surgery and who will have my back as I finish the process of this little remodeling project of mine.  This “networking group” is so much more than that.  We have so much more in common than just being business owners.  We are women. We grieve together, we heal together, we celebrate, support and uphold each other. We are Sisters. And I am deeply grateful to be a part of this family we have created.

 

**Disclaimer: Avoid those 7 words by hearing these 4 instead… “Your test was negative.”    Be vigilant in the protection of your health. Get a thermoscan , a mammogram, whatever you are comfortable with and see your doctor. Take care of yourself and be vigilant. The world needs each and every one of you.

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