A random thought spoken aloud by a passing stranger can hold enough power to take a person—who was otherwise holding themselves together—down. “Wow, and I thought I had small
boobs,” whispered the stranger.

It was the moment that nearly took me out emotionally after a long battle for my life. A rush of heat blew through my body as I felt compelled to press her against the brick wall. I wanted to hold her face close to mine so she didn’t miss a single word that would certainly rush from my mind and into her being. In yet another act of courage, I managed to hold my temper, and take a deep breathe . . . in and out . . . and then carried on with my day.

My self-esteem had been in a battle with itself over the course of a few years. I had decided
that my eyes and my cleavage were my best assets, not soon before I discovered one of those assets was a ticking time bomb.

I had been undergoing mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies and MRIs for two and a half years due to family history. Despite initial benign and negative testing, final pathology showed
extensive cancer in the ductal area of my left breast. The form of cancer was called DCIS, and it was at Stage 0, with a survival rate of 95 percent. Although this was somewhat good news, it was a concern as it had evaded traditional diagnostic testing, and had spread through the entire breast.

My husband and I met with my oncologist to discuss diagnosis and prognosis and options. I had a cluster of lumps in my right breast. We chose to do bilateral mastectomies. I delayed surgery for several months so I could emotionally adjust and spend time with dear friends at a reunion in California.

It has been an adjustment. There is the obvious physical change, and a less obvious vast emotional change. I often agonize about going out in public. Trying to find clothing that
camouflage my lumps and dents so I don’t feel so obviously altered is a daily battle. Reminding
myself that I am still the me I had always been and not less of anything because of this change.
Considering that I may be a stronger person is my daily purpose.

I joined a local support group, and counseling has been a tremendous resource to fulfill my strength reservoir. My husband’s loving attitude of absolute acceptance and support and his strong arms that have held me—and continue to do so—on good days and bad is a treasure. I often tell people that without my faith and sense of humor, I could not survive. I have purposed to use my story to encourage other women to not stop seeking answers when that voice inside says there is something wrong. And if you ever find yourself trekking down the path of breast cancer, to search out any ounce of good that may present itself. It remains one of my biggest  challenges.

I wear pretty colors, scarves and blinging nail colors to infuse a little more confidence into my physical appearance. I am still me, although I am a stronger, more understanding and compassionate version of myself, who understands my assets go well beyond what you might first see of me. As I pass others on the street hustling about their own lives, I wonder, If They Only Knew …

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