"Cancer Changes Everything"

This story is shared with us by Linda Brady.

My Breast Cancer Journey began on February 18, 2016 when I received my diagnosis of ductal invasive carcinoma in my right breast. I am not really sure how much information I was able to process after I heard the word “cancer”. I do know that cancer has changed everything in my life. But as powerful a word as “cancer” is, I have learned over the last seven months that the word survivor is even more powerful.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was a retiree following a thirty-seven year career in education. I was sure that fighting breast cancer was not in the retirement plan. Nonetheless, I started my breast cancer journey that day and I am not looking back. Following an MRI, a second suspicious area was identified in my left breast. My surgeon and I decided on double mastectomy procedures with immediate reconstruction. I endured two major surgeries in just four months. While my body was healing my mind was not.

Five months after my journey began I was no longer riding the “I get to live” high that I felt after becoming cancer-free. Feelings of grief, changes in my emotional life and yes, even depression were now a part of my daily life along with post-mastectomy and reconstruction pain. I was fighting constant fatigue and an inability to return to my pre-cancer active level. I needed something but I’m not sure I could even articulate my needs at this point.

Fortunately, I decided to attend a luncheon at St. Vincent’s Hospital for breast cancer survivors. I heard a representative from the Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center speak about the services available to survivors. I took their brochure and went home feeling a little overwhelmed with the whole breast cancer process. Blessedly, I did read the information and contacted the representative the next day. From this point, I decided to refer myself to Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center. I completed the in-take process (screening) with the in-take coordinator. She was able to help me target four main areas of concern. Within twenty-four hours, I received a written report of my screening questions and the results as well as my identified goals. Trust me when I say this was one of the easiest and most relevant screening instruments I have ever completed!

So here is the really good part of my story. I have achieved my first four goals. Very quickly, Forge referred me to Oasis Counseling for six sessions. I saw a counselor within ten days. I was referred to a Breast Cancer Support Group close to my home. I have already attended a meeting. I chose for the in-take counselor to send me “Tip Sheets” by email on such topics as non-drug therapy pain relief, energy conservation, sleep problems and relaxation techniques. These are helpful tip sheets that guide you to help yourself or to know when to contact your physician. Finally, with help from Forge and the right paperwork from my physician, I attended a dietician consultation with a focus on using better nutrition to fight my fatigue.

To say that the services available at the Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center have helped me would really be an understatement. They assisted me in finding a focus and making a plan for me to continue on this journey. In the future I plan on being a volunteer mentor or advocate for other breast cancer survivors. It is my wish that future survivors will have the opportunities that the Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center offers. I only wish I had been able to locate a mentor/advocate for my first critical months after diagnosis. My journey might have been a little easier.