By Robyn E. Wilson –
I learned the power of words many years ago at the knee of my great-grandmother as she read me bedtime stories. Words in books took me on journeys in my imagination. As I grew up, the words in a note from a boy I had a crush on were powerful enough to make or break my day. Words like, “Do you like me?” Check one ___Yes ____ No ___ Maybe. However, I couldn’t imagine how powerful a little word like “cancer” would be when I heard it from my doctor this past year.
Breast cancer wasn’t new to me. I was no neophyte, rookie. I had experience. Breast cancer had broken me in years ago. You see, my grandmother, who I’m very close to, got a call after having her first mammogram at the age of eighty. The doctors saw something that caused them concern and it turned out it was breast cancer. In her true tiny warrior way, my grandmother had her breast removed, took medications for five years and barely missed a beat.
Fast forward two years after granny’s tangle with the boobie beast and my mother had a mammogram that raised cause for concern as well. Mom had breast cancer too and opted to have her breast removed. She followed up with chemo and just like her mother before her, kept it moving.
You’d think I would be extra cautious and somehow mentally prepared for breast cancer since it seemed to be running rampant in my family, but I was not. I don’t think anyone is ever truly prepared to hear the words “you have breast cancer,”at least I wasn’t.
2012 was a very eventful year. I was forty and fabulous, or so I thought. My daughter was a senior in high school, preparing to go to prom and college. I was kicking butt in my career and my love life was finally on track. Things were looking good. So good in fact that, I decided to go have a routine check-up and I threw in a mammogram for good measure. This was to be a nod, a good girl, the icing on the “my life rocks” cake that would affirm my good health.
I admit I was a little nervous because I’d heard the machine hurt and caused your boobage to contort in unnatural ways. I took a deep breath and let the mashing begin. It wasn’t so bad. A few days later I got a phone message stating that the doctor saw an area that caused them concern and I dropped the phone. This was too familiar and this time it was happening to me. I calmed myself and made a follow-up appointment.
My good friend that happens to be a physician agreed to go to the appointment with me. I’m so glad she did because after the doctor said the word biopsy my mind left my body and hovered near the ceiling for the remainder of the consultation. After coming down and settling into my body again, the decision was made to have a surgical lumpectomy for biopsy. I put my game face on, went in on a Friday and returned to work on Monday. I thought keeping busy would help keep my mind from wandering and worrying.
About a week later I got the news that the tissue the surgeon removed was in fact cancerous and that I would need to have radiation. If you ever have to hear that you have cancer, I can only hope that it’s not over the phone and not the day before your daughter’s senior prom. Unfortunately for me, that is exactly what happened. We made it through the prom and she graduated from high school and went on to college while I graduated and went on to radiation.
I was able to work during my treatments, leaving on lunch and returning to finish up. I admit some of those hours spent in the office were tear filled but my team rallied around and offered phenomenal support. My mother and grandmother were great examples of the power of pressing through. My true love was right by my side being my rock in the way men are, strong, stoic, and wanting to fix it. My daughter was a typical teenager, self-absorbed and a little worried and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My friends were a fierce circle of warrior women praying and encouraging and making me laugh. I learned who was truly on my team and through it all somehow I knew deep in my heart that in the end this was for a purpose and would all be fine.
I started to tell all my friends to schedule mammograms. I was annoying and at times down right indignant. Of the four that I hounded into making an appointment, three had biopsies and one had breast cancer. This was all it took for me to decide to take my story and the message of early detection and treatment on the road. I partnered and organized a seminar at the college where I’m a department chair and started to volunteer with Susan G. Komen.
Now, each day as I plan my to-do list, I reflect on how blessed I am. I reflect on the power of friends and support. I reflect on the power of a positive attitude and faith. I reflect on my purpose and I reflect on how grateful I am to be able to give back. I reflect on the power of words and I know that while cancer is a powerful word, there are words that have even more power. Words like fight. Words like hope. Words like laughter. Words like love. Words like survivor…Hello my name is Robin and I’m a breast cancer survivor.