Not The Story You Would Expect

Not The Story You Would Expect

Excerpted from Deborah’s Presentation at Emerson College AEPhi’s Ribbon on the Runway Event, April 2015

My story is not what you might expect.  My trip through the land of breast cancer was so not traumatic that I still have a hard time actually thinking of myself as a breast cancer survivor.  And I hope it remains that way.  But I did have cancer and it is always there in the background of my life.

Almost exactly two years ago I was called to come back for additional testing after my annual mammogram.   The diagnosis came back as a stage 1 tumor for which treatment included a lumpectomy, radiation and then long-term medication. The prognosis was something like 98% chance of remission/cure.  None of this was fun.  It was emotionally and physically difficult for me and hard on my family.  The medication has side effects which are annoying, and sometimes difficult to deal with.   But the worst of it was over in 6 months.  I was never obviously sick.  Most of the people around me had no idea what was happening (and still don’t know).

The sheer prevalence of breast cancer in the Jewish community led me to support Sharsheret years ago.  When the time came, I knew about Sharsheret and all the many programs it has to help Jewish women with breast and ovarian cancer, and I called, even before I was officially diagnosed.

From that moment on, Sharsheret was a tremendous help to me.  As the caregiver in the family, I didn’t really feel like I could, or really wanted to, share my thoughts with them.  If I wasn’t needy, they wouldn’t worry.  If they weren’t worried, I didn’t have to comfort them.  Sharsheret’s social worker was on the other end of the phone, checking in with me just often enough so I could maintain “even-keeledness” to everyone else. She reassured me when I worried about my daughter’s reaction, sympathized when I described my physical state, supported me when I expressed frustration, listened when I needed to vent.   She sent a pillow after surgery, just at the moment I was thinking to myself I needed something like a nursing pillow to get comfortable.  But this was a fancy pillow in a fancy package, which made me feel so cared for.  Sharsheret set me up with a peer supporter who talked to me about her experiences and sent a package of informational brochures which covered the needs of everyone around me.   There was even one for parents which I gave to my Mom.

When you know someone dealing with breast cancer, and unfortunately chances are very high you will, send them to Sharsheret.  If you encounter oncology doctors or nurses or social workers, tell them about Sharsheret so they can recommend it to their patients.  If your family has a history of breast cancer, get in touch right away.  Sharsheret is there for them and for you.