Cancer

Experiencing breast cancer through the eyes of a patient

September 24, 2021
adult daughter with her mother wearing pink

Breast cancer is a common cancer among women, second only to skin cancer. But statistics only tell part of the story. Each woman’s experience is unique from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship. 

"A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience and every woman goes through it differently. It’s comforting to connect with those who have gone through it before you to acknowledge shared feelings and see what life looks like after the initial diagnosis,” says Amy Skorupa, M.D., medical oncologist with Riverside Health System.

These breast cancer survivor stories are based on a composite of actual patient experiences. They represent what someone may experience after a diagnosis of breast cancer.  

A suspicious lump sent Julie to the doctor

Julie was a vibrant, active 52-year-old woman when she noticed a lump under her arm as she was putting on deodorant. She wasn’t sure if it was new, but she didn’t remember seeing it before. Julie made an appointment with her doctor to investigate. Her doctor performed a physical exam and was concerned; she ordered a biopsy to get more information.

After Julie got the news that her lump was cancer, she felt shocked and angry. “How can this be?” she thought. “I work out, eat healthy and have no family history of breast cancer.” 

A team approach helped Julie feel at ease

As a senior level partner in a law firm, Julie was used to being in charge and working with a team. The lack of control that came with a cancer diagnosis was a new feeling. But as soon as she developed a plan with her oncologist and started meeting the medical specialists that were part of her care team, she began to feel at ease. 

Julie’s cancer was aggressive, triple negative breast cancer. Her treatment included chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation therapy and reconstructive surgery.

Adjusting to a slower pace

Julie experienced many ups and downs during treatment. She lost her hair, felt tired and couldn’t stay as active as her normal routine. The slower pace of life was one of the biggest adjustments for this prominent attorney — but it’s one that stuck. 

While Julie still enjoys her work, she’s found more balance after treatment. Now, she spends more time with family and friends and has made life outside of work a priority.

A routine mammogram discovered Anayah’s cancer

At her annual checkup, Anayah’s doctor recommended a mammogram. At 50, she had never had a mammogram and since cancer didn’t run in her family, she didn’t think much of it. She received a few reminder calls and finally went and got the mammogram. 

Suspicious tissue on the mammogram resulted in several more tests. After an ultrasound and a biopsy, she received the unfortunate news that she had breast cancer. 

Anayah felt afraid and anxious about her diagnosis and was in complete disbelief, but it all became real as she met with her oncologist and surgeon.

Ringing the bell seemed impossible for Anayah during treatment

Anayah’s strong faith and family helped her get through the surgery and treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and eventually hormone therapy. Chemo was tough. There were times when Anayah thought completing treatment and ringing the celebratory bell, like other patients finishing chemo, seemed out of reach.

To make treatment more comfortable she brought her favorite quilt, and always came with a loved one to keep her company. She took one day at a time and leaned on her doctors, family and faith community for support. As time passed she could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ringing the bell and celebrating life

After ringing the bell for herself Anayah is celebrating life after the big C. She’s started a support group in her church to give back to her community.

From diagnosis to survivorship, our team of experts is here for you

Are you dealing with a new cancer diagnosis? Our team of experts can help. 

Schedule an appointment with a specialist on our team to get the help you need on your breast cancer journey today. If you are looking for some support, a breast cancer support group is a great place to meet others who are also going through a diagnosis.

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