Name: Sue Monson
How were you impacted by cancer? At the age of 57, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In September 2002, I went in for a routine yearly mammogram. A month later, I received a letter asking me to come in for a second mammogram screening. I had not heard from my doctor, so I was a little confused. My doctor had finally called and confirmed that the x-rays showed cancer and that I should see a surgeon. My daughter who is a registered nurse took over and scheduled my appointments. My husband was at my side the entire time. We met with the surgeon and talked about my options. There were a couple of options– 1.) A mastectomy 2.) A lumpectomy. After much discussion, I decided on a lumpectomy. I had surgery on November 7th, 2002.
My husband, family, and friends were my strength. I had 33 radiation treatments. My husband took me to every appointment, and he was always with me. After my radiation was completed, my surgeon put me on the drug Tamoxifen for five years. Tamoxifen is a chemotherapy drug. I had horrible hot flashes, dizziness, weight gain, and fluid retention. I also had mammograms every six months during that five year period.
I have been cancer free for over 14 years. I do self-check-ups and yearly mammograms.
How did you cope? It is devastating when you are diagnosed with cancer. It made me realize that every day is a gift. I was so worried for my loved ones and how hard it was for them. I know I needed to be strong for them too.
Looking back at all that happened, it is like a blur. Coping for me was my husband who held me and loved me. I also had my children and grandchildren who have made and continue to make my life happy and fulfilled. I never felt alone.
What advice would you offer to someone who is currently battling cancer? I am a big promoter of yearly mammograms. Also, I would have done one thing different. The lumpectomy left my one breast much smaller. I would have had the surgeon take off the same amount of tissue off both breasts.
Cancer is a very scary word. It still stirs up deep emotions for me today. When I go for my yearly mammograms, my husband is always with me. It means a lot to have him with me even after 14 years of being cancer free.
I think it is important for all family and friends to know how much they are needed and loved for all you go through during a devastating time.