It was the irony of all ironies! In 1999 my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer) and we were in the fight of our lives to save him. Because of a very positive experience at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Gainesville, I had become a weekly volunteer at the local Tallahassee office.

Fast forward to October, 2002. It was Breast Cancer Awareness month and I was involved with all our promotional events. I had worked one afternoon in the office and while undressing for bed that night, felt a small lump in my right breast. My annual mammogram a month before had detected a couple of small cysts in the left breast. Fluid was drawn out of them and determined benign. Feeling sure this was the same thing, I showed it to my husband who said, "You call the doctor in the morning." I did and he had me come in that very afternoon. He too felt it was another cyst and decided to watch it for a month. I had just been taken off twelve years of hormone replacement therapy so maybe my body was reacting. But a month later it was still there.

This time aspiration didn't produce any fluid so removal of the lump was necessary. For some reason I wasn't concerned because we were already dealing with my husband's cancer so I couldn't possibly have cancer too. That wouldn't be fair! The doctor called and said, "They found cancer cells. And the kind of breast cancer is one we only see about once a year in Tallahassee." Oh then, there must be some mistake and a second opinion would prove it.

The second opinion confirmed that I did indeed have breast cancer. I was joining a new sorority of women and being thrown into that maze of breast cancer decisions: mastectomy or lumpectomy, chemo or radiation, reconstruction or not and when, hormonal therapy. I had to get busy doing research. I called 1-800-ACS-2345 for "cancer never sleeps and neither do we", I checked out and read every word of Dr. Susan Love's breast cancer book (considered by many to be the bible on breast cancer), I joined the Bosom Buddies support group and I went to the internet. I also had two more medical opinions and then I made my decision and never looked back. I chose a lumpectomy, six months of chemotherapy and thirty-eight radiation treatments. This October I will celebrate five years as a survivor. Sadly, my husband died of his cancer in 2005 after a 5 ? year battle. I continue to work weekly at the local ACS office and will do so until we close the doors because a cure has been found. Now when a woman comes through that door and says "I need help. I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer", I am able to minister to her because I've been there.

Maybe it wasn't irony after all but the hand of God and His purpose for my survival.

P.S. My lump was never seen on mammogram, so self-breast examination is very important.
Carolyn S. Ward, Tallahassee, FL




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