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Hannah S.
Age: 50-59
State: South Carolina

Story Title: "Knock on wood and keep on prayin' ... that way you cover all the bases"

Sometime in December of 2000, I found a hard, size of a baby le seur pea lump on my left nipple. It appeared quite suddenly, so at first I thought it was just a cyst. I waited to call my gyno until one day I got in my car and the digital clock was blank! I decided this was a sign that there was no more time and called for an appointment that day. She sent me directly to a wonderful surgeon who, by the way was very handsome, and he ordered a mammogram (I had been pretty good at going this for many years). The results were suspicious and were sent for an ultrasound, which confirmed that a needle biopsy was in order. Two lumps in one breast and one in the other. I was terrified.

By now it was almost Christmas and the biopsy was scheduled for Jan. I decided not to tell my family (except my husband) so as not to ruin the upcoming festivities. My son and daughter-in-law to be (they were to be married in her home country of Mexico in March) could not come for Christmas and ironically planned to come when I was to have the biopsy. A couple of nights before the surgery, I sat them down and told them. They both rushed to me and sat on my chair ... it was pretty funny all three of us in one chair...and hugged and cried with me.

The day of the surgery, they insisted on going with Ken (my husband) and I to the hospital. I was so scared when they took me in to have the needles inserted, but managed to laugh when they put the Dixie cups over the needles in my breast. I looked like Madonna with her metal bustiere. Afterwards the surgeon came in and told us the tumors were stage 1 cancer. Besides being frightened, I was sick to my stomach from the anesthesia. The ride home was a nightmare, but all the while Todd and Silvia (my son and daughter-in-law to be) were rubbing my shoulders. I never felt such love.

I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with a sentinal node biopsy because I figured I didn't want to have to go through another surgery if the cancer returned. Besides, I had talked to friends about it and they all said, "we don't care if you have breasts of not, we just want you here". Plus I had done so much research on the subject, I felt it was the best thing for me. The surgery was set for Feb 15th. My son was getting married on March 21st and I was bound and determined to be there.

The next stop was the reconstructive surgeon ... Yikes ... he scared the hell out of me when he told me how they take the fat from you stomach and migrate (?) it up to where your breasts were. I left there telling Ken that I was going to have to go to the preteen department to find a dress for the wedding!! I have NOT had that surgery.

I remember the night before I went in, it was Valentines Day and I was addressing invitations to the wedding. I don't know how I did it. My friend Debra (who had been so supportive through this whole ordeal) knocked at the door and said do you want company, if not I'll go. I was never so glad to see anyone in my life. (I have so many friends to thank for helping me through all this.) Just having her there help calm my fears.

The surgery went well and so did the recovery, but then came the oncologist!! My first trip to him was depressing. He, of course, urged me to do chemo. WELL, it was back to the Internet and any other information I could get on the subject. No nodes were involved and no blood vessels plus all other indications were favorable. He and I went back and forth many times on the info I had collected and he told me all the statistics, but they're just that, statistics ... not people ... and I finally decided not to do the chemo ... after all, I had a wedding to go to, and in Mexico the Mother walks her son down the aisle and I wasn't going to miss that!! After I had made my decision, he said, "well your prognosis is excellent".

Well, I walked Todd down the aisle to marry the daughter I never had and I was never happier!! Five years later I'm still here and I have a beautiful grandson to boot (who by the way is the love of my life now). 

I still live my life the way I always have. I have made no radical changes. We have choices and I've chosen to enjoy my life. We only live as long as we live. When I was first diagnosed, I hated the looks and the tone of voice that people did when they found out. Like they thought the word cancer was a death sentence. Guess what? They could have been in a deadly car accident the next day. Who knows when we'll die? I love life and I'm not going to change the way I live it because I might die. We'll all die sometime ... not that I don't want to live long. BUT ... now I enjoy everyday and I think I have a better sense of what's important ... Love, friends, the colors of the flowers and the sky, my kitty's face, the ocean which I'm lucky enough to live near and the joy that comes from this realization.

I urge all of you to take the time to have a mammogram. I've reminded all my friends on my yearly celebration of life to do so. I've made it to five years and I hope to make it many more. Medical science is in the process of making breast cancer a chronic and not a deadly disease, but you have to be diagnosed early!! Take good care of yourselves, you're important.

Good health ... Hannah

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