Walking Through the Fire of Breast Cancer 9/27/09

Every year as the month of October approaches I celebrate my other birthday.  My October birthday is the day that I started the second half of my adult life as a woman. 

The first 29 years, and also known as my first half,  were spent raising a family and doing all those things one does from the birth of your children till you send them off into the world.  It is a very busy time, being a mom and wife is hard busy work.  You don’t have a lot of time left over for yourself.  You don’t come first much of the time.

I did not know I would have a second half of my adult life as a woman until I read how many successful adult women did not become that way until they realized what event marked their second half of their adult life as women.

If you comb through the pages of history you will find women whose names remained unknown until they were older.  Menopause is a wonderful thing in life, you are free from your own biology of reproduction, your sexuality is unencumbered with the need for birth control, and in fact you like sex better than ever.  You are free to express yourself in ways you could not when you had babies on your hips. 

It is an amazing time of transformation and I, like many of you, was just emerging from a cocoon and becoming a beautiful butterfly when I learned I had micro-calcifications on my routine mammogram.  A biopsy was necessary and I was told that I had a malignancy in my right breast of not one but two kinds of breast cancer.  At that moment in time 16 years ago I saw my butterfly smashed on the windshield of my life. 

When I talk about it now I say right from my first sentence that having a diagnosis of breast cancer is on my Top Ten Best Things That Ever Happened to Me list.  It is a serious diagnosis.  It is a frightening diagnosis but I am where I am today in life because I had breast cancer.

This entire month I will be writing stories on my blog site and also posting them on Facebook because in my walk through the fires of trying to discover why this happened to me I met a scholarly Episcopal priest.  I told him I had made a bargain with God.  Bargaining is the third step out of five in the grieving process and the first three steps; denial, anger and bargaining are considered to be the protest steps of grief.  When I hit the bargaining step I had told God I would help anyone else diagnosed with breast cancer for the rest of my life if He allowed me to live after my surgeries and treatment.

Here I am 16 years later, still keeping my promise, still reaching out to others, still reminding women world wide that the only protection we have is still early detection.

I understand I will have different types of readers here.  Some will be 40 plus and scared to have their first mammogram.  Some will be reading because they know someone with a diagnosis of breast cancer.  Others will be reading because they are caregivers and know that true support comes from someone who was walked through the fires of diagnosis.  A woman might open my blog because she has a family history of breast cancer.  A man might open it because he loves a woman with breast cancer.

Recently someone in my life called me a mean-spirited person, she is so wrong, I hope she reads my blog also because if I were a mean-spirited person I would not want her to read it and learn some of the things I have learned in life.  We can all be mean for a moment but I have devoted the last 16 years to being a life saver, to being a life preserver, to keeping a drowning soul from an oncoming wave of terror while never forgetting that I am still here because I made a promise – a bargain – and I kept that promise.

I will be telling new stories and old stories here so please come back and take some comfort in knowing that life on the other side of breast cancer can be the best life ever.

Carole L. Sanek

September 27, 2009

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