It has been said when a crisis comes into our lives it can often lead to new beginnings. That pain will drive us down one of two paths….the path of the victim or the path of transformation. A choicepoint is defined as that moment when we are standing at the fork in that path. It is that moment in time where we stop, reflect and look for answers. It is a massive opportunity for personal transformation.
I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Hence, I’m in the bull’s eye of a big personal choicepoint. It is uncomfortable. It is scary as hell. I’m kicking and screaming and crying and lashing out. I’m vulnerable. I’m raw. I’m exposed in a way I have never been before. The two paths are before me. I stop. I breath into this choicepoint that is mine and mine alone. Taking the path of victim hood is not in my DNA. Transformation is my only true option. I don’t know how to choose this path exactly, I don’t yet know what it means to move forward but however it unfolds I choose to make it great. I know I can do that.
For those of you who are members of the BC group of women and men, I will define my specifics. I had a 3cm tumor that was both locally invasive and had two lymph nodes involved. The tumor was strongly ER positive and PR positive. HER2 negative. Stage IIa. One doctor excitedly told me it was the ‘best’ kind of breast cancer to have. Forgive me if I don’t give you a high-five in my excitement Doc.
As of this post it has been only four months since my diagnosis. I am an optometrist by training. I treat eye disease not breast disease. I couldn’t name one chemotherapy drug five months ago. I thought a drain was the hole at the bottom of my kitchen sink. But I do know how to read and understand medical research and I’m a life long learner. The way I coped with this diagnosis initially was to read and learn. Since day one I have read research studies on Medline and Pubmed for a minimum of four hours a day. Many days I would wake at 8 and read until 10pm at night. At one point my husband threatened to ‘cut me off’ because I would read and cry…then cry and read some more. I found that the more I learned the more empowered I felt. So I kept reading and learning…..and I will probably never stop.
My training and career in healthcare has helped me learn, through the research, about the biochemistry and biological systems involved in this disease. I was amazed at the information I was learning. Things such as an alternative to reconstruction surgery that could rebuild a breast without implants and without rearranging my back muscles and creating flaps. Or a specific fatty acid I could take with Tamoxifen that would significantly enhance it’s estrogen blocking ability above what it could do alone. Or something I could get in the habit of doing every day that would significantly decrease my risk of future metastasis. It also helped me sift through the medical biases that are present in the current traditional medical model. I have been part of the traditional medical model for the past twenty years so I understand the pros and the cons very well….from an insider point of view. But when it comes to this journey I’m throwing off any preconceived biases to discover science supporting complementary therapies that exist which could help me. I understand that my team of doctors may not be well versed in all the different complementary things I am learning. They are my specialists and by definition a specialist is an expert on one aspect of treatment. I shouldn’t expect my breast surgeon guru to also be a master in radiology or an expert in how the mind plays a role in healing. I see each member of my healthcare team for what they are…and recognize what they are not. They are absolute experts who will provide great guidance when I need their therapy….they are not the gatekeeper and manager of my overall health. I alone can do that. Rule Number One to ALWAYS remember on your journey…..responsibility for your health is in your hands. Be an active, empowered patient…never a passive one.
In the four short months I have researched about breast cancer I have discovered a GINORMOUS amount of information that women need to know about breast cancer but clearly don’t. Information that can help them through this journey if they are seeking help. My goal for this blog is to try to share the information I have learned in the research that hasn’t yet trickled down to the mainstream cancer patient. Provide information that should, at the very least, spark interesting conversations wit doctors and loved ones. Every person should make their own choices in their treatment but in order to make good decisions one must have information. My intention is to share information that will empower others during their own cancer journey and support the transformation into their new life. Peace, Cynthia