By Beth B.
I never get tired of telling my story. Four words.
It all started on October 26, 2011 —10 days after my 30th high school reunion. I went for my annual exam. Ten minutes into the visit, my gynecologist said, “You have a lump.” Four words. Thirty minutes later, I was having a mammogram a month before my regularly scheduled one and an ultrasound. An hour later, the technician took me into a room and put me on the phone with my doctor, who said, “We found something suspicious.” Four words. They told me to find a surgeon and schedule a biopsy as soon as possible. Six days later, I had a biopsy, and on November 4, 2011, my world turned upside down. I was 48 years old when I heard “You have breast cancer.” Four words.
Part of my story involves how and where I received my diagnosis. I am a lobbyist for a financial services company, and the day after my biopsy, I traveled to Washington, D.C., on a business trip. As every cancer patient knows, the thing that you crave the most is normalcy. While I didn’t yet know that I was a cancer patient, I craved normalcy. The thought of sitting at home and waiting for the results was unbearable to me. I was in a meeting room with about 75 people when my cellphone started ringing, and I could see it was the surgeon’s office. I made it out to the lobby where the diagnosis was delivered. It was as if all the air had left the building. All I wanted to do was to get back to my room to call my Mom. I held it together until she picked up the phone, and I burst into tears. I felt like a child who falls off her bike and doesn’t cry until she gets home and runs straight into her mother’s arms.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2B. I had a lumpectomy a week before Thanksgiving in 2011. My margins were not clean, and I had node involvement. I chose to have a single mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and I have never regretted that decision. The surgery was four days before Christmas. I had eight rounds of chemo. I lost all of my hair and started reconstruction during chemo. I finished treatment on May 2, 2012 and had reconstructive surgery later that summer with the final surgery that fall. I am currently taking Letrozole after five years of Tamoxifen. I still have neuropathy in my feet, but it is gone from my hands. Now my four words are “You are a survivor.”
I have met the most incredible people on this journey. I am proud to be a survivor, and I feel blessed every day. My fellow survivor thrivers are the bravest people I have ever met. They give me hope and courage every day. I hit the 9-year survivorship mark last November. Some days, it feels like yesterday, and other days, it feels like a lifetime ago. Some days, I scratch and claw my way through, but most days I just feel incredibly lucky.
We must continue to fund the research that will eventually eradicate this monster. Together we can, and will, lift the veil on this horrendous disease. Together, we are stronger than cancer. Life changes in an instant. I really have no other words. I will NEVER stop telling my story and I will NEVER stop fighting for a cure.
Here are my final four words to you — GO LIVE YOUR LIFE!