Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Day 2 of the Wego Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge has dawned — and it's Introduction Day! That's when I share my encounter with Breast Cancer and the 5 things I want you to know about it. 

1) My first blog post was about the mammogram that would change everything. Next, I wrote about hearing the words You Have Cancer (that's here), how I broke the news to my husband here, why we chose to keep it a secret here (and the lesson I learned from that here), and how I kept myself from going completely off-the-wall ballistic here and here

2) And all that happened before a scalpel ever touched my skin. If you've ever had cancer (or been through it with someone close), you know exactly what I'm talking about. (I can hear your shaking head from here!) If you've recently been diagnosed, the above links will help you. A lot...

© The Big C and Me blog
3) Having breast cancer is kinda like having a rope tied tightly around your neck and then being pushed into a churning sea. You're tethered (so you won't drown), but it sure feels like you will. At the same time that you're gasping for air and grasping for a way out of the whirlpool, you'll need to return to school — um, yea, that would be medical school — because there's SO much you'll have to learn. You've gotta do your research to be able to understand the type of breast cancer you have, the treatment you'll need, and your surgical options (including reconstruction). Your list of questions will be long. Get your pen ready. You'll be interviewing doctors and surgeons in your quest for the ideal-for-you medical team. 

4) This takes patience (lots), research (here is how I did it), reading (books I found helpful are here and here) and talking to people who have already been through it (I did that here). None of it is easy. You must weigh the options and opinions while also listening to your gut and making decisions which will forever alter the course of your life. It's some heavy s***. But you can do it. You have no other choice.

5) Know this too: You will feel that you have to make these major life decisions in a very short amount of time. (I know women who learned they had cancer one week and were in surgery the next.) It doesn't have to happen that fast. When I was feeling pressured to make my surgical decisions, my new doctor gave me some very sage advice: "Your cancer has been growing for years. Waiting another month will not make any difference in your treatment plan." 

He was right. Knowing I had time to make the right choice for me was what I needed. I encourage you to take the time you need to make a fully informed decision. Once you have the pathology report from your biopsy, you and your doctor will know exactly what type of cancer you are dealing with and can make an informed decision about how quickly you must decide about your steps going forward. Ask from the onset how much time you safely have to decide. That extra week or two (or three) can make all the difference in the world.

Tomorrow, something a little more fun! Stay tuned.


  1. WOW Renn... so much put into this post. If I had someone dealing with cancer in my life, I would direct them to your blog... I am happy to see you posting more regularly... I really enjoy reading and learning from you :)

  2. Oh, Renn, #5 just resonates with me. I remember being so worried that the cancer would spread everywhere during the two weeks I had to wait for the BRCA results. Had I been positive, they would have taken the other breast and my ovaries. It was like an avalanche of new vocabulary, and I felt like I wasn't learning it all quickly enough!! I remember my doctor telling me that waiting those two weeks would not make a difference, but I was a complete wreck and didn't believe her ...

    1. Yvonne, I know exactly what you mean. It wasn't until my doctor told me that my cancer had been there for years — maybe even 10 years — that I realized waiting another month or two was not going to make any difference n my case. Every case is different, though; that's why it's important for everyone to ask their doctors. And then believe him (or her)! ;-)

  3. Hi Renn. Wonderful post. Definitely caan relate to numbers 3 and 4. I love the image you created and how it fits so perfectly into how u feel in that moment. Sheer terror! And patience is one of the biggest parts of the cancer experience. We wait for this, to find out that, to get this and to start living again. There is this giant pause button that keeps getting pressed and we have no control over it. Really loved your post and send hugs from Norway. OBB x

    1. OBB! Always so special to receive a comment from you!

      I love the image of a giant pause button — with a giant palm pressing down on it.

      The hand of cancer. BLECH!

      How are you doing/feeling/dealing?


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