By Pauline Durban
2006… what a year! I reunited with my dad, from whom I had been estranged for 35 years (another story for another time), and I discovered a lump in my left breast! I was 50 years old.
I did a self-examination at least once a month, but this time I found a lump. People often ask me how I knew it was a ‘bad’ lump, since our breasts are full of lumps. Believe me, you can tell the difference.
It was December, and I was getting ready for a trip to England to spend Christmas with my family. What to do? I guess I will put it on hold, I thought, and revisit it when I get back. After all, it’s only a small lump, and I’m sure it’s nothing.
I had a wonderful trip, spent time with my dad, visited a friend in Spain, didn’t tell a soul that I had a lump in my breast. Might as well wait until I know what it is. Not worth worrying anyone. After all, I’m sure it’s nothing. Our company switched health care providers in January, so there was a delay in getting it looked at.
Now it’s February, and I checked the lump again. Oh my, it seems to have grown! Time to go to Kaiser, whether I have to pay or not. I booked an appointment for the next day at 4:00 PM. Yep, definitely a lump.
Oh dear, the ultrasound department is closed. I need to go back the next day.
Yep, definitely needs to be looked at. Come back Monday for a biopsy. Ouch, that hurt. They should know the results by Thursday.
I told a few people about the lump. Of course, they all assured me it was nothing.
Thursday, I called for the results. They told me they couldn’t give me the results over the phone; that I need to come in on Tuesday. REALLY! I don’t think so! Anyone who knows me, knows that wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t like waiting.
I called my Ob-Gyn. 10 minutes later, I got the call. Yes, Mrs. Durban, you have cancer. It was Thursday, February 15, 2007.
Things became a bit blurry after that. I made calls to my family. Assured them I would be fine. No, I didn’t need anyone to come over and look after me. Yes, if I needed them I would let them know.
I was the healthiest I had been in my life. Ate well, exercised five days a week, and not an ounce of fat on me. It seemed like a strange time for this to happen.
My surgery was Friday, February 23. No big deal, they got that nasty cancer out of my body, right? WRONG! The margin wasn’t clean. Hmmm, maybe had something to do with waiting.
Surgery number two was done on March 8. I call that my official “all clear” date.
So, I was good. I caught it early, it was only stage one, and they got it all this time!
My next visit to the doctor, I went alone. I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand. After all, it was a routine follow up. WAIT! What do you mean it was a fast-growing, aggressive cancer, and I have to have chemo and radiation? You told me we caught it early. I wasn’t expecting that!
Now, they want me to put poison in my body. I’m not sure if I want to do that. There must be alternative therapies; let me think about it.
Then my son visited. I looked at his handsome, but sad, face, and knew that I had to do whatever it took to stay alive.
Ok, I would do it. However, I wanted to go to England for my dad’s surprise birthday party first. I will start chemo when I get back. It was so worth it to see the look on his face when he saw me. He hugged me like he never wanted to let go.
Back to reality.
I did everything I could. I took natural products, even though the doctor said I shouldn’t. I took immune builders to help me recover from the dreaded chemo.
Within ten days of my first chemo, my hair started falling out. Within two weeks, I didn’t have a hair on my body. No bad hair days or shaving my legs. See, there are plus sides. It was tough, but I kept reminding myself I have to do whatever it takes.
Next was radiation, five days a week, for five weeks. Step three, bring on the Herceptin. My body did not like it at all. In October, I had to stop because it weakened my heart. Lucky it was strong to start with. It took three years of medication to get it back to normal.
So here I am, over seven years later. I’m still alive and kicking. Cancer picked the wrong person. I’ve always been a survivor, and this was no different.
Do I look at life differently? Sometimes. I don’t let things stress me out as much. I live in acceptance a lot more. I’m grateful for my life, and the people in it. I have amazing friends. So many of them played a part in my journey. They took me to doctor’s visits, did my housework, grocery shopping and babysat me when I came back from chemo.
Some final words: If you find a lump, don’t wait. See a doctor right away. It’s easier to deal with in the early stages, and the survival rate is high. Do whatever it takes to stay alive. Follow your doctor’s advice. Take natural products too. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].
For the next chapter of my story, visit CoveredPerfectly.com.
Pauline and I became fast friends after she emailed to introduce herself, and her pretty line of flattering tops, to FabOverFifty. When I interviewed her, I loved her charming British accent and comfortable personality. Although she’s passionate about a great deal, from her work to her grown son, she doesn’t let idiotic things get in the way of appreciating and enjoying her life, something we must all strive to do better. After reading her essay, I now understand why she refuses to sweat the small things.
Pauline wants to offer FOFs a 20 percent discount on anything you purchase from her collection, and, if you wish, why not donate some or all of your savings to your favorite cancer charity. Enter code FOF20 at checkout to receive your discount!