For Women Dealing With Breast Cancer

Sherry McGuinn

For what it's worth, I'm here for you.

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Yesterday, I got into my little Fiat for the forty-minute drive to my six-month checkup and check-in with my oncologist. I was a little “hinky” as I always am prior to going back there, but the facility and its staffers are an amazing bunch of healthcare professionals who go out of their way to treat patients as they deserve to be treated. A concept that should not be an exception to a rule, but is, unfortunately.

My doctor and I discussed my recent blood work and bone density scan and he also examined me, proclaiming that everything felt “normal” and that I was “doing great.”

The weight of those words! Their significance cannot be understated as I believe I’ve been forever changed since my breast cancer diagnosis five years ago. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as my doctor pointed out. Yes, it’s scary as hell but I’ve also come to realize how blessed I am and how wasteful it is to piss and moan about the petty stuff we all encounter daily. Long lines at the grocery store. Drivers who cut us off. Spam calls and emails.

Notice I’m not mentioning the pandemic here because that’s a whole other issue, and a crusher, but what I’m referencing is the petty bullshit that drives us bonkers. If we let it. And I admit, I often do. It’s something I’m working on.

If you have recently received a diagnosis of breast cancer, I’d like to help you. What do I mean by that? Simply this: I want to pay forward what other women did for me when my life forever shifted.

I know: You are scared out of your mind. Scared witless. You can’t think, or breathe or assimilate what you’ve just been told. I get it. I’ve been there.

When my radiologist performing the biopsy gave me that look, my heart stopped and my world went black. Even as I write this, my brain is attempting to push this memory back into the wormhole but I can never forget it. Nor should I.

I remember the room and the look on my husband’s face. I recall the woman technician assisting in the procedure embracing me as my body literally folded in on itself. I remember the radiologist ushering my stunned husband into the hall so he could tell him that my cancer was “early and curable.”

At some point, I wandered out to find a restroom and remember standing stock-still in the middle of a hallway, unable to move or find my way back to where I was. Thankfully, that wonderful technician had followed in my wake and literally led me to a bathroom and then back to my husband.

And that was just the day of the biopsy! I still had the treatment plan to hurdle, the surgery to remove the lump followed by four weeks of radiation…all of that. But there’s no need for you to know those details.

If you’re facing the same, or already have, here’s what matters: I’m still here, five years later, and feeling incredibly blessed, as I said earlier, to be able to share this with you.

Even though it feels like it, and fucking hell, it does, when the doctor utters the C-word, it is NOT the death sentence it once was, not by a longshot. Early detection is key, naturally, but therapies too, have changed.

Speaking of doctors, it is essential to compile a team that is caring, compassionate and that takes the time to explain everything. And it is equally important to have someone you trust accompany you on those initial visits with your doctors because you will miss a great deal. Unless you’re an incredibly strong and grounded individual, your mind will wander off to parts unknown. At least, in the beginning.

When I finally floated back down to earth, I spent a great deal of time online, sussing out support groups. Thankfully, I found a wonderfully inspiring, tight-knit group of women who’d “been there, done that,” and who generously gave of their time to help the newbies like me, who were so frightened, we couldn’t think straight.

This support proved to be invaluable as we were patiently told what to expect before and after surgery, as well as throughout treatment and beyond. Many of the women even recommended immune-strengthening supplements that they’d been taking for years with great success. (I latched onto a few, and still take them.)

My oncologist stressed yesterday, how lucky I am to be able to “lift up” other women who are experiencing the fear and utter dread that I experienced. As he pointed out, it’s one thing for family members and friends to say, “I know you’re going to be just fine! I’m pulling for you!”

It’s quite another to connect with someone who truly understands what you’re going through.

I do understand. And if you’re in a dark place right now, and need information, or an ear, or a virtual shoulder to lean on, whether it be for yourself or a loved one, you know where to find me.

I wish you all good health.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL
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