It was 2003 when the doctor’s words, “You have breast cancer,” sent my heart racing. And from that moment on I began to spend my days in hope.
First, there was the hope that a surgeon’s skill and a mastectomy would remove every cancer cell and that the disease hadn't found its way into the lymph system.
But when my sedated world came into focus, the attending physician sat bedside to break the news.
“We found cancer in the lead lymph node, but the rest that we removed were clear,” his half-smile belying his disappointment in the outcome he hoped might be different.
Two-thirds of my lymph nodes under my left arm were now gone. Lab results indicated the cancer had strayed beyond the boundaries of my breast tissue and this brought new concerns. Chemotherapy followed by a strong drug regimen was the recommendation.
“If the cancer hadn't entered your lymph system, we wouldn't advise such strong measures,” the oncologist counseled about increasing the chances of my reaching the 10-year survival mark.
The information weighed heavily as I pondered the odds: One infected lymph node. All the others removed, clear. The gamble, for me, was worth it.
Declining chemotherapy and a follow-up drug program, I took a holistic approach. The book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life was my handbook. A “closer to the earth” healthy diet, reduced stress and prayer time became my lifestyle.
Always hope was my constant companion. As each six month interval passed, blood tests showed hope and perseverance winning.
Now, 10 years later, I am a survivor who can truly celebrate. On Feb. 6 — the anniversary of my surgery — all the greeting cards filled with encouraging words during those initial difficult days will be read once again.
I’ll be sitting by a warm fireplace in snowy Hope, Idaho. It seems the perfect place to rejoice since many a day has been spent in hope.