Ashkikari Breast Center , The Breast Cancer Alliance of Greenwich and the internet support group that was my life line, Force.
It's been a lovely month! I was asked by Dr. Roy Ashkari, to Chair the Ashikari Breast Center's April 2011 Gala. Most kindly, I will also be their Honoree. I was also asked by the President of the Breast Cancer Alliance, Margaret Sinclaire, to be featured with my survivor's story. Trust me when I tell you, there is no way to refuse either of these powerhouses!!! Truly, I am grateful to them and honored to be asked. Below is a copy of One Woman's Story: Debbi O'Shea, as it appears in their Summer 2010 Newsletter:
Every experience is unique, but the things you learn as a result of surviving a cancer diagnosis are often shared. Know this: you cannot face your mortality without realigning your priorities...things change, quickly but often for the better.
I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer at 37. Personally, I think genetic testing and counseling should be offered to all pre-menopausal women, under 40, who receive a breast cancer diagnosis. When I was diagnosed in 1996, paternal breast cancer history was not even considered a risk factor. Today we know. BrCa mutations can be inherited maternally and paternally. My BrCa1mutation was, in fact, passed to me by my father. Had I had this information at the time of diagnosis, I may very well have made different treatment choices.
Today, many more women are choosing to do bi-lateral prophylactic mastectomy. The actress Christina Applegate bravely put a public face on this option after her diagnosis. “Previvors” are women at high risk whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is in the 45-87% range. Many have already lost mothers and sisters to the disease and they are looking to greatly reduce their risk and alter their own fates. Others, like Applegate, are choosing to remove their cancer free breast to minimize the burden of a recurrence hanging over their
shoulder, literally. Cosmetic options and advances in reconstruction are rendering beautiful, more natural results, making it a little easier to choose this brave path.
I have heard these surgeries described as “barbaric” and “mutilating.” They are, truly, no such thing. It is simply a deeply personal choice. It is a choice I made, with no regrets, for peace of mind and to hopefully ensure my longevity, (knock wood, spit spit, poo poo)!!! I lost my own father at age 14 and I felt strongly that I needed to do everything in my power to be here for my own son, now age 17.
People often ask me, “What can I do for my friend/relative who has been newly diagnosed?” That’s easy! The best gift you can give that person is to support her choices unconditionally. Most often, after diligently doing homework and sifting through a myriad of choices, she has chosen her surgery, treatment, doctors and
hospital with great care. Please honor that!
I hope you will never have to hear the words, “your tumor was malignant.” If you do, you will cope...you simply have to.With the help of a great medical team, family, friends, luck, perseverance and
resources like the Breast Cancer Alliance, life resumes and it will never be sweeter. Mine is.