October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Submitted by Debbie Manus Love, Two Months and Counting, Breast Cancer Survivor

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 20th of this year. Nothing can prepare you for those three words, “YOU HAVE CANCER”. It’s a moment that reprioritizes your life in an instant. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I didn’t have a lump or experience any pain leading up to my scheduled mammogram. I had a routine screening and was called back for a biopsy less than a week later to confirm what the doctor suspected was probably only “calcification”.


concordstrides2016In hindsight I realize that having been asked at every doctor’s visit, “Does breast cancer or uterine cancer run in my family?” and repeatedly answering “no” lead me to feel a false sense of security that I was not at risk for this disease. I should know better than to think I would be immune – but I had no family history of breast cancer. This diagnosis blindsided me. What bits of the conversation I did retain that fateful day was that I wouldn’t need a mastectomy.  My breast cancer was Stage 1. I didn’t even know what that meant other than assuming a higher stage meant the survival rate diminishes. The only thing I did know was my diligence of screening annually was the reason I caught my breast cancer early enough to beat it.  So, surgery was scheduled and then the “wait” began.

Nothing prepares you for the “waiting”. I had to wait a month for surgery with cancer in my body. I had to wait two weeks after surgery to hear if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I had to wait another month to start radiation to kill any possible cancer cells that may have (as the doctor explained) “escaped” during surgery.  It’s probably one of the biggest mental challenges you face as a cancer patient – waiting to get better, waiting for your body to heal from the paces you put it through so you can proceed to the next attack on your body while juggling the many doctor visits in between. And while that is going on – you are suddenly more attuned to others battling the disease, finding comfort with the patients you sit with while you wait your turn for radiation and hearing of those who lost their battle while trying to keep life as normal as possible for you and your family.

This is truly when the reprioritization of your life begins – starting with constantly reminding yourself “you will be okay” before you start each day. Deciding you’ll do whatever it takes to survive, take whatever medicine is necessary for as long as necessary, and willingly expose your body for months to daily radiation in a room, separating you from the medical staff viewing your treatment,  by a foot-thick steel door. Then managing the side effects that come with the exposure to that treatment and pushing through your day reminding yourself this is helping you live so you can watch your children grow up.

When I rang the bell at the Payson Center signifying the completion of my radiation treatment this past August, a ten-year survivor approached me and gave me a hug, handed me flowers and said to remember on this day that I conquered this disease, but I will always have cancer. I understood as only a cancer patient could. The cancer may be out of my body – but my fear that every ache or pain I experience from this day forward could be my cancer returning -- is a part of my life now.  I can live with that, because even though my story may have started with three words, it’s ending with one, “SURVIVOR”.

Debbie Manus Love
Two months and counting Breast Cancer Survivor
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