When Cancer Comes Home

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This has never changed my life or activities much. Typically, I run a 5K for Breast Cancer and donate to Susan G. Komen. This year is different. Lynnda, my wife, has Breast Cancer. She is allowing me to share her story because it may help other women.

Lynnda gets an annual mammogram. She found a lump before her scheduled mammogram and decided to have it checked out rather than wait months. A biopsy (Using a small tool to get a sample of the mass) was done. The doctor herself called Lynnda with the result. It was cancer. It wasn’t what we wanted to hear. It’s scary. The good news was, she caught it early. It was stage one limited to one breast. A PET scan showed it had not spread to the lymph nodes.

Lynnda’s surgeon is good at what she does and is a very caring person. At an appointment after the PET scan, she explained the options to us. Lynnda could have the affected breast removed (a mastectomy) and have reconstructive surgery. This would solve the cancer problem but would require multiple surgeries. She could have a lumpectomy (breast conserving therapy) removing the lump and surrounding tissue. This is usually an outpatient surgery. There is a risk, some cancer cells could be left behind. A series of radiation treatments is required after healing from the surgery. We were told recent studies show the lumpectomy and mastectomy have about the same reoccurrence and overall survival rates.

This was a major decision for Lynnda. We spent a lot of time talking about it. I listened and was a sounding board. I also had questions of my own. Some the doctor could answer. Others were answered by women who had experienced the surgeries. I told Lynnda I would support whatever choice she made. Due to her age and the surgery being minimally invasive the lumpectomy was her choice.

I lost two grandparents to cancer, though not Breast Cancer. Lynnda lost a grandmother. In the 1960s cancer was a death sentence. A lot has changed since then. We have better treatments today. As friends and family learned of Lynnda’s Brest Cancer women reached out to her and shared their stories of Breast Cancer survival. They offered support and encouragement. Dannielle, our daughter, has friends who are Breast cancer survivors. They sent emails of support and answered Lynnda’s questions. I was surprised by the large number of women of all ages going back to the 1980s who have survived and are cancer free. I didn’t realize how prevalent Breast Cancer is. It has claimed a lot of lives. Suzanne Summers just died of Breast Cancer this week. Today most woman survive.

Two of Lynnda’s cousins had Breast cancer and are now cancer free. One had her Breast Cancer the same time I had my cancer, almost 40 years ago. Her doctor attacked it aggressively with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. She lost all her hair. It grew back and looks great today. Lynnda’s cousins both live full active lives.

Lynnda had the lumpectomy this week. According to the surgeon, “It went perfectly.” She thinks she got all the cancer. Biopsy results will be back next week. Follow up with the surgeon in two weeks. Three hours after surgery we were home. Lynnda is sore where the incision is. She is experiencing discomfort instead of pain. Hopefully that won’t change. We meet with the oncologist next week. Her doctor told me they won’t start radiation until she has healed from surgery, at least six weeks. Lynnda’s prognosis is good because they found and treated the cancer early before it got to her lymph nodes and spread

through her body. We don’t know what the radiation entails and how many weeks are required. Other women who told her they were extremely tired after radiation therapy.

Lynnda and I both have a strong faith in God. Family and friends from all over the country are praying for Lynnda. Her positive attitude makes a big difference in the ability to get through the challenges she is facing. Attitude is a choice. She expects to succeed. Lynnda is a big supporter of our high school soccer team. She told me to tell the boys she would be at our section playoff game after surgery and she was. We won and are moving on.

To better support Lynnda, I talked to friends whose wives had breast cancer so I can understand what I might expect and how I can best help. I also learned from nurses Breast Cancer is not limited to women. Breast cancer rates for men are on the rise.

Breast Cancer awareness month is a good time to gain a better understanding of this widespread disease. According to the American Cancer Society in 2023;

  • Breast cancer accounts for 30% of all female cancers.
  • In 2023 300,000 new cases will be diagnosed.
  • In 2023 44,000 women will die of breast cancer.
  • 1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer.
  • Some women don’t experience any symptoms. Regular cancer screening is important.

Lynnda noticed a lump and had it checked out. She believes in regular mammograms for early detection. Now is a good time to schedule your mammogram. Self-examination is also important. We know our body better than anyone. We can tell if there are changes and get them checked out. We find faith in God helps. Keeping a positive attitude is important. Look at and talk to survivors to build your belief. Believe you will be successful overcoming cancer. Having friends you can depend on is important for support.

Lynnda and I have work to do to over-come this disease. She is a fighter who expects to succeed. You choose your own attitude. You can focus on those who died or you can focus on the many who live full lives. We choose to focus on living.

Greg Kozera, [email protected] is Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.

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